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Friday February 23, 2024

Violence flares up as Iran protests enter fourth week

By AFP
October 09, 2022

PARIS: Schoolgirls chanted slogans, workers went on strike and protesters clashed violently with security forces across Iran on Saturday, as demonstrations over the death of Mahsa Amini entered a fourth week.

Anger flared after the 22-year-old Iranian Kurd s death on September 16, three days after her arrest in Tehran by the morality police for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic s strict dress code for women.

Iran said on Friday an investigation found Amini had died of a longstanding illness rather than blows to the head, despite her family reportedly saying she had previously been healthy.

But the women-led protests continued even as ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi posed for a group photograph with students at Tehran s all-female Al-Zahra University to mark the new academic year.

Young women on the same campus were seen shouting Death to the oppressor, said the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR).

In Amini s hometown Saqez, in Kurdistan province, schoolgirls chanted Woman, life, freedom and marched down a street swinging headscarves in the air, in videos the Hengaw rights group said were recorded on Saturday.

Gruesome videos were widely shared online of a man who was shot dead while sitting at the wheel of his car in Sanandaj, Kurdistan s capital.

The province s police chief, Ali Azadi, said he was killed by anti-revolutionary forces.

Angry men appeared to take revenge on a member of the feared Basij militia in Sanandaj, swarming around him and beating him badly, in a widely shared video.

Another shocking video shows a young woman said to have been shot dead in Mashhad, in what many on social media compared to footage of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman who became an enduring symbol of the opposition after being shot dead at protests in 2009.

Despite internet restrictions designed to impede gatherings and stop images of the crackdown getting out, the protesters have adopted new tactics to get their message across.

We are not afraid anymore. We will fight, said a large banner placed on an overpass of Tehran s Modares highway, according to online images.

In other footage, a man is seen altering the wording of a large government billboard on the same highway from The police are the servants of the people to The police are the murderers of the people.

Hengaw, a Norway-based Kurdish rights group, said widespread strikes took place in Saqez, Sanandaj and Divandarreh, in Kurdistan province, as well as Mahabad in West Azerbaijan.

Street protests were also reported in many neighbourhoods of Tehran — where bazaar shops were shuttered — as well as in Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz and Tabriz, among other cities.

IHR said at least 92 protesters had been killed in the crackdown, which fuelled tensions between Iran and the West, especially its arch-enemy the United States.

Raisi -- who in July called for the mobilisation of all state institutions to enforce hijab rules -- appealed for unity.

Despite all the efforts of ill-wishers, the strong and hardworking people of Islamic Iran will overcome the problems ahead with unity and cohesion, he was quoted as saying on Saturday on the presidencys website.

Local media quoted a municipal official as saying pictures published on Friday of fountains in Tehran appearing to pour blood, after an artist turned the water red to reflect the crackdown, were false and there was no change in colour.

Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stirring up the protests, and last week announced that nine foreign nationals -- including from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands -- had been arrested.

On Friday, France advised its nationals visiting Iran to leave the country as soon as possible, citing the risk of arbitrary detention.

The Netherlands advised its citizens to avoid travelling to Iran or to leave when they can do so safely.

There may be demonstrations which can turn violent. The police sometimes act harshly... authorities can also arbitrarily detain people with a foreign nationality, it said.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker who was held in Tehran for six years until her release in March, called on the UK government to act over Irans rights abuses.

I want the (UK government) to observe what is happening, not to turn a blind eye. I want them to protect us. We cannot be indifferent about what is happening in Iran, she said.

And if we talk about protecting rights of our citizens, we have to do something about it. And I think we have to hold Iran accountable.