Protests sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody in Iran continued Thursday, with reports of clashes between police and demonstrators in the northwestern city of Mahabad.

Witnesses say shots were fired at protesters in the city, where demonstrations swelled after the death the night before of a man reportedly shot dead by police.  

Iranian state media said protesters angered over the “suspect” death of a demonstrator broke windows of banks, a tax office and other public buildings.   

On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters marched to the gravesite of Mahsa Amini in northwestern Iran to mark 40 days since her death while in custody of the nation’s morality police.

Amateur video posted to social media sites showed crowds of protesters, some in vehicles but mostly on foot, filling the road leading to Aichi cemetery in the Kurdistan province’s city of Saqez, which was Amini’s hometown.

Witnesses reported shots being fired in the area by Iranian security forces.

The demonstrators, who could be heard yelling, “Death to the dictator” among other chants, marched in defiance of heightened security measures put in place in anticipation of further protests Wednesday.

Amini, a Kurdish woman, was detained in the capital, Tehran, September 13 for allegedly wearing her head scarf — or hijab — “improperly.” The 22-year-old died while custody three days later, with police reporting she had a heart attack. Her family says she had no history of heart trouble.

Deaths are commemorated in Shi’ite Islam — as in many other traditions — 40 days later, typically with an outpouring of grief. Riot police and the paramilitary Basij Resistance Force were reportedly deployed in Saqez and other parts of Kurdistan.

Amini’s death has sparked weeks of protests over the mandatory wearing of hijabs by women and sparked calls for changes to Iran’s political system. The government has responded with security forces often using live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrations.

Rights groups say more than 200 people have died during the protests and hundreds, if not thousands, have been arrested. Analysts say the protests have become one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic in its history.

VOA’s Persian Service contributed to this report.  Some information came form The Associated Press and Reuters.

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