Iran’s president Thursday accused arch-enemy the United States of seeking to destabilise the Islamic republic, which has been rocked by nearly a month of women-led protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. Outrage over the 22-year-old woman’s death, three days after she was arrested by Iran’s notorious morality police, has fuelled the biggest wave of street protests and violence seen in the country for almost three years. Young women and schoolgirls have been at the forefront of the protests, shouting anti-government slogans, setting their headscarves ablaze and facing off with security forces in the streets. Chants of “Woman, Life, Freedom”, the protest movement’s catchcry, were again heard overnight in the northwestern city of Bukan, where demonstrators burned the Iranian flag, in a video verified by AFP. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi again blamed the United States, its bitter foe since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and chief adversary in a standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme. “Following the failure of America in militarisation and sanctions, Washington and its allies have resorted to the failed policy of destabilisation,” he said. Fresh protests were held on Thursday, with students gathered at Tehran University shouting insults at a security officer who pointed his gun at them, in online video footage verified by AFP. Across town at Valiasr Square, a government billboard showing pictures of famous Iranian women all observing the hijab rule drew scorn as it featured some personalities known to be less supportive of the headscarf rule. Gunshots and tear gas were fired on Wednesday as security forces confronted protests in a crackdown that rights groups say has already claimed at least 108 lives. New online videos showed members of the public confronting security forces as they sought to arrest demonstrators, at times forcing officers to run away. In other footage verified by AFP, women are seen being beaten and chased by security forces in Rasht in Gilan province. Some oil workers have gone on strike in support of the protests, and 12 from the Bushehr petrochemical plant were arrested as a result, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said Thursday. Deadly unrest has rocked especially Sanandaj in Amini’s western home province of Kurdistan — but also Zahedan in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, where demonstrations erupted on September 30 over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander. HRANA charged that “the unregulated use of shotguns with pellets by law enforcement has resulted in the injury of many protesters”, including elderly people, teenagers or even children. The US-based group said it had the names of at least 106 people slain by the security forces, and knew of another 11 dead who remained unidentified. At least 94 more had been killed in Zahedan, one of the few Sunni-majority cities in predominantly Shiite Iran, HRANA said, adding that 20 security personnel had been killed, including six in Zahedan. It said on Thursday that it “estimates 5,710 individuals have been arrested in #IranProtests2022” and added that the number is growing daily. Iranian judges have been issued orders against handing down soft sentences for people found to be the “main elements of riots”, the judiciary said. In its widening crackdown, Iran has restricted internet access and blocked social media platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp. Washington, which has imposed new sanctions against Tehran over the crackdown, said it was taking steps to ensure Iranians would have online access. “Iran’s continued violent crackdown on peaceful protestors is an affront to human rights,” said US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. “I spoke with major US tech firms and urged them to… provide the Iranian people with additional services and communications tools.” The state’s crackdown has drawn widespread condemnation. “Continued repression is not the answer,” said Comfort Ero, president and CEO of the International Crisis Group think-tank, in a tweet. “The government’s violent crackdown is only deepening the divide between a state that will not give in to demands for greater freedom, and a society that will not give up asking for them.” An Iranian investigation found Amini had died on September 16 of a longstanding illness rather than reported beatings. Her parents have denied this and filed a complaint against the officers involved. A cousin living in Iraq has told AFP she died of “a violent blow to the head”.