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Iran president to give address amid unrest

President Ebrahim Raisi is reportedly planning a television address amid a tide of anti-government unrest in Iran, with protesters chanting “death to the dictator,” after the death of a young woman in police custody.

Despite a growing death toll and a fierce crackdown by security forces using tear gas, clubs and, in some cases, live ammunition, social media videos showed Iranians persisting with protests, often calling for the end of the Islamic clerical establishment’s more than four decades in power.

Still, a collapse of the Islamic Republic seems remote in the near term since its leaders are determined not to show the kind of weakness they believe sealed the fate of the US-backed Shah in 1979, a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

Raisi, who last week said the protests over Mahsa Amini’s death were unacceptable “acts of chaos”, will speak to the nation later on Wednesday, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

“The president will talk about the most important domestic and foreign issues facing the country in his live TV interview tonight,” ISNA said, without elaborating.

Angry demonstrations have spread to more than 80 cities since the September 13 death of 22-year-old Amini, after she was arrested for “unsuitable attire” by the morality police who enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Amini, who was from the northwestern Kurdish city of Saqez, died in hospital after falling into a coma, sparking the first big show of dissent on Iran’s streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in petrol prices in 2019.

“We will fight, we will die, we will take Iran back,” protesters chanted in Tehran’s Ekbatan neighbourhood, a video posted on Twitter indicated.

A video from the southeastern port city of Chabahar showed riot police firing tear gas to disperse protesters who chanted “Death to (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei”.

State media said 41 people, including members of the police and a pro-government militia, have died during the protests.

Iranian human rights groups have reported a higher toll.

Dozens of Iranian celebrities, football players and artists – inside and outside the country – have backed the demonstrations while activists have called for a country-wide strike.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region of neighbouring northern Iraq, where an official said nine people were killed.

Iranian authorities have accused armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of igniting the unrest, particularly in the northwest where most of Iran’s 10 million Kurds live.

The US condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan region and called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Videos posted on activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, with 145,000 followers, showed students at Shiraz Medical School protesting against Amini’s death and demanding the release of students arrested since the eruption of protests.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of videos on social media.

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