A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration in support of Amini, a young Iranian woman who died after being arrested in Tehran by the Islamic Republic's morality police, on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on September 20, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

DUBAI: Access to internet in Iran may be disrupted due to “security reasons”, the minister of communications was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the semi-official ISNA news agency, amid widespread protests following the death of a young woman in police custody.

“Due to security issues and the debates going on currently in the country, restrictions to the internet may be decided and applied by the security apparatus, but overall we have not had any bandwidth reduction,” Issa Zarepour said.

Meanwhile, protests spread to 15 cities across Iran overnight over the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the country’s morality police, state media reported on Wednesday.

In the fifth night of street rallies, police used tear gas and made arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people, the official IRNA news agency said.

Demonstrators blockaded streets, hurled stones at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and garbage bins, and chanted anti-government slogans, it added.

Public anger has flared since authorities Friday announced the death of 22-year-old Amini, after her arrest by the morality police responsible for enforcing a strict dress code for women.

Amini had fallen into a coma after being detained for wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” way, state media has reported.

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A woman cuts her hair in protest, following the death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in police custody, near Bologna, Italy, in this combination image of still images taken from a social media video. Image Credit: REUTERS

In the demonstrations, many Iranian women have taken off their headscarves in protest.

Rallies were held overnight in the capital Tehran and other major cities, including Mashhad in the northeast, Tabriz in the northwest, Rasht in the north, Isfahan in the centre and Shiraz in the south, IRNA reported.

Ismail Zarei Koosha, the governor of Kurdistan - Amini’s home province where the protests started - said on Tuesday that three people had been killed during protests in the province, without specifying when.

Amini’s death and Iran’s response to the protests have sparked condemnations from the United Nations, United States, France and other countries.

Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani late Tuesday condemned what he called “foreign interventionist positions”.

“It is regrettable that some countries try to take advantage of an incident under investigation as an opportunity to pursue their political goals and desires against the government and people of Iran,” he said.