Thousands of mourners flocked to the Iranian cemetery where Mahsa Amini is buried Wednesday, defying a government crackdown to mark 40 days since her death after she was detained by morality police and the end of the country's traditional mourning period.
Security forces clashed with crowds who had gathered at Amini's grave in her hometown, Saqqez, according to a semi-official Iranian news agency, which also said internet in the region was subsequently cut off.
A photo posted to social media and verified by NBC News showed a young woman standing on a car with her hands raised in the air and her headscarf removed, overlooking a long line of people in the city.
Three videos recorded in Saqqez also showed large plumes of smoke rising from streets near protesters as they faced off against security forces nearby. NBC News has verified the video.
The protests erupted after activists called for demonstrations to mark the anniversary of Amini's detainment.
Anti-government protests since Amini died last month have persisted across Iran despite an intense crackdown. Beyond Saqqez, there were large protests in cities including the capital, Tehran, on Wednesday.
“Massive crowds” had poured into the streets to mark Amini’s death, according to Ali Arouzi, NBC News’ Iran correspondent.
“They have been met with an absolutely enormous security presence,” he added.
Witnesses told Reuters that a large security presence was also on the streets of several other cities.
Amini, 22, who was from Iran's northwestern Kurdistan region, died in a hospital three days after she was arrested in Tehran for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic's strict dress codes.
The demonstrations have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Iranian government since the 1979 revolution, with some people chanting slogans against the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Ebrahim Raisi.
“A limited number of those present at Mahsa Amini’s memorial clashed with police forces on the outskirts of Saqqez and were dispersed," according to the semi-official news agency ISNA. Internet in Saqqez was then "cut off due to security considerations,” the agency reported, adding that about 10,000 people had gathered.
The regional governor had denied reports of unrest in the province, according to the Telegram channel of the state-run IRNA news agency. The governor also said that Amini's family decided against holding a memorial service and that reports that roads to Saqqez were closed were “false.”
Security forces had blocked roads to the cemetery, according to Hengaw, a group that monitors human rights violations in Kurdistan province, which shared the video of crowds chanting “Woman, life, freedom!” at the site early Wednesday.
Hengaw also alleged that Amini’s family had been under pressure by security forces to issue a statement announcing that it would not go ahead with a memorial service to mark 40 days since her death. The human rights group also said Amini’s brother was threatened with arrest.
NBC News cannot verify Hengaw’s claims or the identities of the men in the video.
Women and young girls have been at the forefront of the anti-government protests in Iran, with videos showing them removing and burning their headscarves and cutting their hair in public, in open defiance of the cleric-run Islamic Republic.
The government has blamed what it calls “foreign enemies” for stoking the unrest.
A coroner’s report said this month that Amini died from multiple organ failure and ruled out blows to the head and body as a cause of her death. Police had said Amini died after she fell ill and slipped into a coma, but her family has said witnesses told them officers beat her.
The police have denied she was beaten.
The coroner’s report also said that because of an underlying health condition, Amini suffered a heart attack and could not be revived. Her family denies she had a pre-existing condition.