The Iranian security forces have killed at least 50 persons as protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the morality police rock the Islamic republic, AFP reported on Saturday, citing a human rights organisation.

The woman, Mahsa Amini, was detained on September 13 in the Iranian capital of Tehran by the police unit that enforces the country’s obligatory dress codes, including the compulsory wearing of the headscarf in public. Officials say that she died by heart attack on September 16 while in custody, however, critics believe she was physically assaulted while under detention on accusations of violating the hijab mandate.

The Iran Human Rights estimated toll is higher than the number given by state media, which said on Friday that at least 35 people had been killed in the unrest. A previous toll of 17 issued by the state media included at least five members of the security services.

According to the Iran Human Rights, the protests have spread to 80 towns and cities in the country. Women have led the demonstrations, with many removing their headscarves and burning them as men cheered them on, videos on social media showed.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that the authorities should “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility”, Reuters reported, citing state media.

He made the remarks while speaking to the family of a security agent who died while curbing the protests. The president “stressed [on] the necessity to distinguish between protest and disturbing public order and security, and called the events...a riot”.

In several cities across the country, demonstrations in support of the security forces are also taking place, reported AFP.

Earlier this week, Iran had shut off the internet in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan in a crackdown on protestors.

SpaceX Chief Executive officer Elon Musk said on Friday that he would activate his satellite internet service, Starlink, after the United States announced that it was easing export restrictions to improve Iranians’ access to the internet, reported Reuters.