Demonstrators returned to the streets across Iran on International Women's Day amid nearly six months of nationwide protests against a clerical establishment that have deprived women of their most basic rights.
The protesters demanded more freedoms and women’s rights and voiced anger and frustration about the authorities’ belated response to the poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls since the end of November 2022.
Some Iranians have suggested that the poisonings could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools or a retaliation for students and women leading the protest movement sparked by the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police. Amini had been arrested for allegedly wearing a headscarf improperly.
In the southern city of Ahvaz, protesters rallied outside the provincial Education Department, accusing the authorities of failing to protect students.
In the west of Tehran and Sattar Khan Street, men and women called for an end to the repression of women and accused the government of being responsible for the poisonings.
The protesters called for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and chanted “Death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In eastern Tehran, security forces used tear gas and shotguns to disperse a group of women who were protesting the Islamic Republic’s discriminatory treatment of women.
The demonstrators chanted slogans including "Death to the dictator" and "Woman, life, freedom," the main slogan of the women-led protest movement.
Several protests rocked the northern city of Rasht, with women shouting, "Whether with hijab or without hijab, we’re moving toward the revolution."
Footage shared on social media shows a group of women singing a song called "Change for Equality."
Similar rallies took place in Karaj, Sanandaj and Saqqez. In the western Kurdish town of Sanandaj, residents took to the streets amid heavy presence of security forces following teachers' protest rallies.
Meanwhile, US first lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked International Women's Day by hosting the ceremony of the State Department’s annual International Women of Courage Awards at the White House.
The new Madeleine Albright Honorary Group Award went to “the women and girl protestors of Iran.”
"Women in all of their diversity are often the ones on the front lines of change. And yet at the same time, they face still greater obstacles to their political participation," Blinken said.
Earlier, the US Treasury Department announced a 10th round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its deadly crackdown on the protests.
The targeted individuals include two senior prison officials, Iran’s top army commander, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and an official “who was central to the regime’s efforts to block internet access,” Treasury said.
Also hit with sanctions were three Iranian companies and their leadership for their role in the “violent repression of peaceful protestors."
The British government sanctioned the headquarters of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and its president for their role in the "implementation of mandatory hijab laws for women."
The Iranian authorities have responded to the unrest over Amini's death with a brutal crackdown in which more than 520 people have been killed and over 19,000 have been illegally detained, including many women, rights groups say.
After biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.