Thousands of people marched through Iran’s capital during a pro-hijab rally Friday, paying tribute to security forces who have moved to quell a week of protests by what media called “conspirators”.
Iran has been rocked by street violence that has claimed the lives of at least 17 people since the death last week of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for wearing the hijab headscarf in an “improper” way.
State news agency IRNA said thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran on Friday after the main weekly prayers, in response to a call from Iran’s Islamic Development Coordination Council.
“The great demonstration of the Iranian people condemning the conspirators and the sacrileges against religion took place today,” Iran’s Mehr news agency said.
Imam Seyed Ahmad Khatami set the tone for the rallies in his sermon at Tehran University, calling for law enforcement bodies to punish those behind the unrest.
“I strongly urge the judiciary to act quickly against the rioters who brutalise people, set fire to public property, and burn the Koran,” he said. “Punish these criminals with the weapon of the law.”
Those in attendance held up signs thanking the security forces and condemning women who burned their hijabs.
“To support the end of the veil is to do politics the American way,” they chanted.
State television aired footage of the pro-hijab demonstration showing people holding banners marching along streets of central Tehran, nearly all of them men.
Demonstrations in support of the security forces also took place in several cities across the country including Ahvaz, Isfahan, Qom and Tabriz.
Amini died on September 16, three days after she was hospitalised following her arrest by police responsible for enforcing Iran’s strict dress code for women.
Activists said the 22-year-old suffered a blow to the head in custody but this has not been confirmed by the Iranian authorities, who have opened an investigation.