Senior Iranian official warns against protests amid serious unrest

Iran’s parliament speaker has warned that protests over the death of a young woman in police custody could destabilize the country and urged security forces to deal harshly with those he believes are endangering public order, as unrest across the country entered its third week.

Scattered anti-government protests appeared to erupt in Tehran and clashes with security forces in other cities, social media reported on Sunday, even as the government moved to partially or fully block internet connectivity in Iran.

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf told lawmakers that unlike the current protests, which he said were aimed at overthrowing the government, previous protests by teachers and pensioners over wages were aimed at reforms, according to the legislature’s website.

“The important point of the (past) protests was that they were aimed at reforming and not overthrowing” the system, Mr Qalibaf said.

“I ask all those who have (reasons to) protest not to let their protest turn into destabilization and overthrow” of institutions.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by Iran’s vice police in the capital Tehran for allegedly -saying no adherence to the country’s strict Islamic laws. dress code.

Protesters have expressed anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic.

Nationwide protests quickly turned into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian state television reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began on September 17.

An activist in Lebanon holds portraits of Mahsa Amini during a protest against her death in Beirut (Hassan Ammar/AP)

A tally of official statements by authorities from the Associated Press showed at least 14 dead and more than 1,500 protesters arrested.

Mr. Qalibaf, the Speaker of Parliament, is an influential former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard paramilitaries.

Along with the president and the head of the judiciary, he is one of the three senior officials who deal with all important matters of the nation.

The three meet regularly and occasionally meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state.

Mr Qalibaf said he believed many of those who took part in the recent protests had no intention of seeking to overthrow the government at first and claimed opposition groups based abroad were fomenting protests aimed at destroying the system.

Iranian authorities have not presented evidence of their allegations of foreign involvement in the protests.

“Creating chaos in the streets will weaken social integrity, jeopardize the economy while increasing enemy pressure and sanctions,” he said, referring to long-standing crippling US sanctions against Iran.

Mr Qalibaf promised to “change the structures and methods of the morality police” to prevent a recurrence of what happened to Ms Amini.

The young woman died while she was in the custody of the vice squad. Her family claimed she was beaten, while authorities say she died of a heart attack.

His remarks came after a closed meeting of parliament and a brief gathering of lawmakers to voice support for Mr Khamenei and the police, chanting “death to the hypocrites”, a reference to Iranian opposition groups.