(CNN) — In one video, a crowd cheers as a woman raises a pair of scissors to her hair, exposed, with no hijab in sight. The sea of people, many of them men, roars as she cuts off her ponytail and pumps her fist into the air.
It was a powerful act of defiance Tuesday night in the city of Kerman, Iran, where women are required to wear hijabs in public, and just one of many protests taking place across the country following the death of Mahsa Amini. , a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody last week.
Thousands took to the streets Tuesday night, with videos of protests emerging from dozens of towns and cities, from the capital Tehran to more traditionally conservative strongholds like Mashad.
The images show some protesters chanting: “Women, life, freedom.” Others can be seen lighting fires, getting into fights with the police or removing their headscarves and burning them, as well as destroying posters of the country’s Supreme Leader and shouting, “Death to the dictator.”
In one video in Tehran, young protesters march around a street bonfire at night, chanting: “We are the children of war. Come and fight, and we will fight back.”
Almost all provincial cities in Iran’s Kurdish region, including Kermanshah and Hamedan, have also seen demonstrations.
The protests are striking in their scale, ferocity, and rare feminist nature; the last protests of this size were three years ago, after the government raised gasoline prices in 2019.
Witnesses told CNN the Tuesday night rallies appear to be “blitz rallies,” meaning groups quickly form and disperse to avoid clashes with Iranian security forces following the escalation in violence. the last week.
A source said there was at least one case of heavy-handed police response on Tuesday, near Iran’s Enghelab (“Revolution”) Square on the western side of Tehran University, historically a rallying point for protests.
“Two young men were beaten and clubbed by plainclothes police and riot police, then dragged into the van in front of the subway entrance gate,” a witness told CNN. “An injured girl lying on the sidewalk was taken by ambulance to hospital and five others arrested on the north side of Enghelab square.”
At least five protesters were fatally shot during demonstrations in the Kurdish region in recent days, according to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a Norwegian-registered organization that monitors rights violations in Iran.
The organization said another 75 were injured in other cities over the weekend.
The protests erupted after the death of Amini, who was intercepted and detained by Iran’s morality police last Tuesday.
Iranian officials said Amini died last Friday after suffering a “heart attack” and slipping into a coma following his arrest.
However, his family said he did not have a pre-existing heart condition, according to Emtedad News, a pro-reform Iranian media outlet that claimed to have spoken with Amini’s father.
Edited security camera footage released by Iran’s state media appeared to show Amini collapsing at a “re-education” center where she was taken for “guidance” on her clothing.
Iran’s morality police is part of the country’s law enforcement and is tasked with enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict social norms, including its dress code that requires women to wear a veil or hijab in public.
An aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei promised a “thorough investigation” into Amini’s death during a meeting with his family at his home on Monday, according to Iran’s semi-official Nour news agency.
Abdolreza Pourzahabi, Khamenei’s representative in Iran’s Kurdish province, said the supreme leader “is sad” and the family’s pain “is also their pain,” according to Nour.
He added that he hopes the family will show “good will to help bring calm back to society.”
During a press conference also on Monday, Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi denied “false accusations” against Iranian police, saying they “had done everything possible” to keep Amini alive.
It added that Amini had not been physically harmed during or after she was detained, calling her death “regrettable.”
Since Amini’s death, internet monitoring website Netblocks has documented internet outages since Friday, a tactic Iran has previously used to prevent the spread of protests.