Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Tehran of employing excessive repressive measures, including lethal force, against participants in weeks-long nationwide anti-government protests sparked by the death last month of a young woman arrested by Iran’s morality police.

Mahsa Amini died on September 16, three days after being detained by morality police because of “improperly” wearing the hijab, a headscarf that is mandatory for women in Iran to wear while in public.

Authorities said the 22-year-old died of a heart attack, an allegation rejected by her family and activists, who say she was subjected to beatings while in custody.

Her death has sparked a wave of protests across the country despite government warnings that a harsh crackdown on any dissent will continue.

At least 154 people, including nine children, have been killed during the 18 days of protest, according to a human rights group.

HRW said it had so far compiled a list of 47 individuals who have been killed, most by bullets, according to rights groups or credible media outlets. The names included at least nine children, two of them girls, and six women.

“Iranian authorities have ruthlessly cracked down on widespread anti-government protests with excessive and lethal force throughout Iran,” HRW said October 5.

The New York-based group said it had documented numerous incidents of security forces unlawfully using excessive or lethal force against protesters in 13 cities across Iran.

“Videos showed security forces using shotguns, assault rifles, and handguns against protesters in largely peaceful and often crowded settings, altogether killing and injuring hundreds. In some cases, they shot at people who were running away,” the group said.

“The Iranian authorities’ brutal response to protests across many cities indicates concerted action by the government to crush dissent with cruel disregard for life,” HRW’s Tara Sepehri Far said.

“The security forces’ widespread shooting of protesters only serves to fuel anger against a corrupt and autocratic government,” Far said.

HRW said that the international community should take action and make sure those responsible answer for their deeds.

“Concerned governments should cooperate to increase pressure on Iran and undertake a United Nations-led independent inquiry into serious abuses committed during the protests and recommend avenues for holding those responsible to account,” HRW said.

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