People clash with police during a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Wednesday. Photo by EPA-EFE
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- United Nations human rights officials expressed concern Tuesday about the Iranian crackdown on protesters in the wake of a woman's death in government custody.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died Sept. 16 after being detained by the Islamic Republic's Morality Police for not wearing a hijab.
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the organization is "very concerned by the continued violent response by security forces to protests in Iran," emphasizing that "firearms must never be used simply to disperse an assembly."
Protests have spread across Iran with images circulating on social media of protesters burning hijabs, chanting "death to the dictator" and lighting photos of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei on fire.
Local authorities report hundreds of arrests, but Shamdasani said lack of access to information makes it hard for human rights organizations to establish precise numbers, "due in part to restrictions on telecommunications."
While official government figures put the death toll at 41 since the start of the protests, the Norway-based organization Iran Human Rights says at least 76 people had been killed as of Monday.
The Iran government last week throttled or blocked Internet access and messaging apps, including Instagram and Whatsapp, significantly hampering Iranians' efforts to reach outside the country.
Shamdasani said the practice "undermines numerous human rights, notably the right to freedom of expression, we call on the authorities to fully restore Internet access."
Meanwhile, Amini's death has sparked protests around the world.