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TEHRAN, Iran – Thousands spilled onto the city streets Isfahan in Iran Wednesday to protest a spate of acid attacks that have maimed at least nine women in the last three weeks, according to FARS news agency. Protesters chanted “death to extremists” and “Isfahan is our city, security is our right,” according to social media and a witness who spoke to NBC News. Some also linked the acid attacks to extremist militants that have taken over parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq: “Not doing anything about the attacks is like supporting ISIS.” Demonstrators also demanded that a leading cleric who had condoned the use of violence to on women who do not obey Islamic dress codes. Public protests became very rare following the crackdown on demonstrations against the disputed reelection of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
The acid attacks come as Iran’s parliament debates a law backed by conservatives that would allow ordinary citizens to enforce their subjective interpretation of Islamic morality and dress codes. President Hassan Rouhani spoke out against the proposed legislation Wednesday. “Rue the day some lead our society down the path to insecurity, sow discord and cause rifts, all under the banner of Islam,” he told a cheering crowd in a speech broadcast live on television. “We should not see vice as manifested only in ‘bad hijab’ and overlook lies, corruption, slander and bribery,” he added, referring to the term used to describe when women do not follow the country’s strict dress codes.