Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards have called on the Islamic Republic's judiciary to prosecute "those who spread false news and rumours" about a young woman whose death in police custody has triggered nationwide protests.
Protesters in Tehran and other Iranian cities torched police stations and vehicles earlier today as public outrage over the death showed no signs of easing, with reports of security forces coming under attack.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week after being arrested in Tehran for wearing "unsuitable attire".
She fell into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would launch an investigation into the cause of her death.
In a statement, the Guards expressed sympathy with the family and relatives of Ms Amini.
"We have requested the judiciary to identify those who spread false news and rumours on social media as well as on the street and who endanger the psychological safety of society and to deal with them decisively," the Guards, who have cracked down on protests in the past, said.
Pro-government protests are planned for Friday, Iranian media said.
"The will of the Iranian people is this: do not spare the criminals," said an editorial in the influential hardline Kayhan newspaper.
The protests over Ms Amini's death are the biggest in the Islamic Republic since 2019.
Most have been concentrated in Iran's Kurdish-populated northwest but have spread to the capital and at least 50 cities and towns nationwide, with police using force to disperse protesters.
A group of United Nations experts, including Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran and Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, demanded accountability for Ms Amini's death.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Ms Amini. She is another victim of Iran's sustained repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of bodily autonomy and the freedoms of opinion, expression and belief," the experts said in a statement.
A member of an Iranian pro-government paramilitary organisation, the Basij, was stabbed to death in the northeastern city of Mashhad yesterday, two semi-official Iranian news agencies reported on Thursday.
The Tasnim and Fars news agencies reports of the stabbing appeared on Telegram as both their websites were not functioning today.
There was no official confirmation of the death.
Tasnim also said another member of the Basij was killed yesterday in the city of Qazvin as a result of a gunshot wound inflicted by "rioters and gangs".
Nour news, a media outlet affiliated with a top security body, shared a video of an army officer confirming the death of a soldier in the unrest, bringing the total reported number of security force members killed in the unrest to five.
In the northeast, protesters shouted "We will die, we will die but we'll get Iran back" near a police station which was set on fire, a video posted on Twitter account '1500tasvir' showed.
The account focuses on protests in Iran and has around 100,000 followers.
Reuters could not verify the footage.
Another police station was set ablaze in Tehran as the unrest spread from Kurdistan, the home province of Ms Amini and where she was buried on Saturday.
Ms Amini's death has reignited anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran - including strict dress codes for women - and an economy reeling from sanctions.
Iran's clerical rulers fear a revival of the 2019 protests that erupted over gasoline price rises, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic's history. Reuters reported 1,500 were killed.
Protesters this week also expressed anger at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Mojtaba, may you die and not become Supreme Leader," a crowd was seen chanting in Tehran, referring to Khamenei's son, who some believe could succeed his father at the top of Iran's political establishment.
Reuters could not verify the video.
Reports by Kurdish rights group Hengaw, which Reuters could not verify, said the death toll in Kurdish areas had climbed to 15 and the number of injured rose to 733.
Iranian officials have denied that security forces have killed protesters, suggesting they may have been shot by armed dissidents.
With no sign of the protests easing, authorities restricted access to the internet, according to accounts from Hengaw, residents, and internet shutdown observatory NetBlocks.
Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils, with some cutting their hair in public.
In northern Iran, crowds armed with batons and rocks attacked two members of the security forces on a motorbike as a crowd cheered, as seen on a video, which Reuters was unable to verify.
'Men and women stayed on the streets'
Mitra Jashni of the Turqoise Women of Iran project said that for many years, the Islamic Republic has tried to prevent unity between men and women by making social and political issues specific to men or women, sometimes putting their interests and rights in conflict with one another.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said of the protests over the death of Mahsa Amini "this time men and women have decided to stay in the streets until they win".
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She said there is a wide range of people in Iran who support the protests.
"The truth is that freedom of women in Iran is not separate from freedom of men and the entire society from the regime operation and I think, this time, really, people have decided to change the situation."
She said those who oppose the Islamic Republic and sharia law come from a wide range of backgrounds and from different political beliefs and despite what some international media would like to portray "compulsory hijab is not part of Iranian culture".