Iranian students protested and shopkeepers went on strike despite a widening crackdown, according to reports on social media, as demonstrations that flared over Mahsa Amini’s death continued for a 50th day.

Saturday’s protests came as President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran’s cities were “safe and sound” after earlier dismissing a pledge from the US president, Joe Biden, to “free Iran”.

The Islamic Republic has been gripped by protests that erupted when Amini died in custody after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.

As the working week got under way, security forces adopted new measures to halt protests at universities in Tehran, searching students and forcing them to remove face masks, activists said.

But demonstrators were heard chanting “I am a free woman, you are the pervert” at Islamic Azad University of Mashhad, in north-eastern Iran, in a video published by BBC Persian.

“A student dies, but doesn’t accept humiliation,” sang students at Gilan University in the northern city of Rasht, in footage posted online by an activist.

In the north-western city of Qazvin, dozens chanted similar slogans at a mourning ceremony 40 days after the death of demonstrator Javad Heydari – a custom that has fuelled further protest flashpoints.

The Norway-based Hengaw rights group said people were observing a “widespread strike” in Amini’s home town of Saqez, in Kurdistan province, where shops were shuttered.

A video aired later by Manoto, a television channel based abroad and banned in Iran, appeared to show students locked inside Islamic Azad University in north Tehran.

A video reportedly shows Iranian protesters clashing with security forces in the northern city of Rasht, Iran
A video reportedly shows Iranian protesters clashing with security forces in the northern city of Rasht, Iran. Photograph: UGC/AFP/Getty Images

The continuing unrest came as Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on Saturday launched a new satellite-carrying rocket, state TV reported.

Iranian state TV said the Guard successfully launched the solid-fuelled rocket it called a Ghaem-100 satellite carrier and aired dramatic footage of the rocket blasting off from a desert launch pad into a cloudy sky. The report did not reveal the location, which resembled Iran’s north-eastern Shahroud Desert.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that the carrier would be able to put a satellite weighing 80kg into orbit about 500km from Earth.

The US state department called the launch “unhelpful and destabilising”. Washington fears the same long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch nuclear warheads. Tehran has regularly denied having any such intention.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said on Saturday that at least 186 people had been killed in the crackdown on protests, a rise of 10 from Wednesday.

It said another 118 people had lost their lives in separate protests since 30 September in Sistan-Baluchistan, a mainly Sunni Muslim province in the south-east, on the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

An official in Kerman province admitted the authorities were having trouble quelling the protests that erupted after Amini’s death on 16 September.

President Ebrahim Raisi speaks at a rally outside the former US embassy in Tehran
President Ebrahim Raisi speaks outside the former US embassy in Tehran at a rally on Friday marking the 43th anniversary of the start of the Iran hostage crisis. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

“The restrictions on the internet, the arrest of the leaders of the riots and the presence of the state in the streets always eliminated sedition, but this type of sedition and its audience are different,” Rahman Jalali, political and security deputy for the province, was quoted by ISNA news agency as saying.

Iran has sought to blame its arch-enemy the US for the protests, with Raisi on Saturday saying Washington had failed in its attempt to repeat the 2011 Arab uprisings in the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported.

Raisi earlier dismissed Biden’s pledge to “free Iran”, retorting that Iran had already been freed by the overthrow of the western-backed shah in 1979.

“Our young men and young women are determined and we will never allow you to carry out your satanic desires,” he told a gathering commemorating the November 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran by radical students.

Biden had said on Friday while campaigning in US midterm elections: “Don’t worry, we’re gonna free Iran. They’re gonna free themselves pretty soon.”

US national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, played down Biden’s remarks, saying: “The president was expressing our solidarity with the protesters as he’s been doing, quite frankly, from the very outset.”

On Friday, the world’s largest cryptocurrency platform, Binance, acknowledged funds belonging to or intended for Iranians had flowed through its service and may have run afoul of US sanctions.

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