For the first time since unrest swept across the country in September, an Iranian general has acknowledged that more than 300 people have been killed in the ongoing protests.

The demonstrations have engulfed Iran since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died in the custody of Iranian religious morality police for allegedly wearing a headdress improperly.

While the official state account holds that Amini suffered a fatal heart attack, eyewitnesses claim that several security officers assaulted her in the police van following her detention.

The general’s statement marks the first time an official casualty toll has been publicized, according to the Associated Press. Local activist groups are challenging the official death statistic, arguing that it understates the true extent of state violence over the preceding months. According to these groups, more than 450 protesters have been killed, along with 60 Iranian security-force members. More than 18,000 protesters reportedly have been detained.

By the beginning of November, over 80 Iranian cities had confronted some form of protest as growing outrage at economic hardship and political mismanagement have come to a head.

Against the backdrop of the domestic turmoil, Iran has sought to divert attention elsewhere. Regional saber-rattling at the beginning of November led Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States to escalate military preparedness.

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had begun ratcheting up its nuclear enrichment at its Fordow underground nuclear facility. “The political goals of the founders of this anti-Iranian resolution will not be realized but it could impact the constructive relations between Tehran and the Agency,” Iran’s IAEA envoy Mohsen Naziri said in response to the agency’s condemnation, according to a Reuters report.

Such maneuvers have done little to appease Iranian citizens frustrated with their government and the ayatollahs. Playing their first match of the World Cup last week, members of Iran’s national soccer team refused to sing their national anthem.

Ehsan Hajsafi, a member of the team, was the first to publicly condemn the state violence against protesters. “I would like to express my condolences to all bereaved families in Iran. . . . They should know that we are with them. And we support them. And we sympathize with them regarding the conditions,” Hajsafi said at a news conference.

Source » nationalreview