Following the murder of a young woman in police custody early on Friday, protesters in Iran continued to engage in violent clashes with security forces.
Iranian state TV speculated that the number of fatalities could reach 26 without providing further details.
The movement is the most widespread unrest since 2019 when rights groups claimed hundreds of people were killed in a harsh crackdown.
However, the extent of the rallies spanning a dozen Iranian cities and towns is still unknown. According to internet traffic monitor Netblocks, Iran has also interfered with internet access to the outside world and strengthened restrictions on well-known social media sites used to plan protests, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
Without going into detail about how authorities arrived at that number, a state TV anchor reported late Thursday that 26 protestors and police officers have died since the protests began last Saturday following the funeral of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Although he promised that official data would be made public later, the Iranian government has not previously provided official death counts during periods of unrest.
According to a count by The Associated Press based on state-run and semiofficial media statements, the rioting has claimed the lives of at least 11 individuals.
A citizen and a paramilitary officer were slain most recently, according to the deputy governor of Qazvin, Abolhasan Kabiri, during violence that shook two cities in the northwest province.
The public outcry over the death of Amini, a young woman from a northwest Kurdish hamlet who was detained by Iran’s morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly breaking the country’s tightly enforced dress code, catalyzed the crisis currently engulfing the country.
Her family has disputed the police’s claim that she suffered a heart attack and died.
The United Nations and Western nations have both harshly condemned Amini’s death, which has also touched a nerve in the country.
Iranians from the capital, Tehran, to Saqez, a city in northwest Kurdistan, have flocked to the streets in large numbers to express pent-up rage over social and political restrictions.