Iranian demonstrators resist despite crackdown

Iranian demonstrators resist despite crackdown


Protesters in Iran remained in the fourth week of a movement against the Islamic Republic despite a crackdown including the use of tear gas in Tehran and reports of heavy weapon use in the Kurdish-populated northwest on Monday.

Videos posted on social media showed protests flaring up in various locations in the capital and other cities across the country in recent days, where women were seen burning headscarves and shouting slogans against the Islamic system.

Meanwhile, Kurdish rights group Hengaw accused authorities of using heavy weapons, including “shelling” of residential areas and “machine gun fire,” in the northwestern city of Sanandaj — claims that could not be independently corroborated.

The unrest erupted over three weeks ago over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, who died in hospital after being arrested by Tehran’s notorious Morality Police, which enforces strict dress codes for women, including the mandatory headgear.

Activists say she was beaten in custody, which has not been confirmed by authorities in Iran, who ordered an investigation, and where a published medical report blamed a pre-existing condition.

Outrage over her death sparked protests, which channeled anger among some Iranian women over the mandatory headscarf, but also saw repeated slogans against the Islamic system created by the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the Shah’s ouster in 1979.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on Sunday released videos of protests in Tehran, including at several universities including Amir Kabir and Azad.

Footage shared on social media, including by news site Iran Wire, says female students at Al-Zahra Women’s University in Tehran shouted anti-regime slogans on campus during a visit by President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday.

Students at universities, including Azad in Tehran, also painted themselves in red as a reminder of the authorities’ crackdown on the protests, pictures showed.

State news agency IRNA said police used tear gas “to disperse crowds in dozens of locations in Tehran,” adding that protesters “chanted slogans and set fire to and damaged public property, including a police booth.”

– Multifaceted protests –

Analysts say the multi-faceted nature of the protests – from street marches to student strikes to individual acts of defiance – has complicated attempts by authorities to quash the movement.

This could pose an even greater challenge to the authorities under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, than the bloody protests against energy price increases in November 2019.

A viral video reportedly showed a bareheaded woman, arms outstretched, offering “free hugs” to passers-by on a street in the northwest city of Kermanshah, contrary to the dress code.

There were also signs of labor unrest and videos broadcast by Persian media based outside Iran showed striking workers burning tires outside the Asalouye petrochemical plant in the southwest of the country.

Meanwhile, videos have shown schoolgirls removing headscarves and taking down pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei in their classrooms. There are also unconfirmed reports that several of these students were subsequently arrested.

The protests first erupted in northwestern Iran’s Kurdistan region, where Amini was from, and activists claimed that protesters even took control of some streets on occasion.

Norway-based Hengaw said Iranian security forces shelled and shelled residential neighborhoods in the city of Sanandaj following nighttime protests in several districts.

Shots were also heard in Amini’s hometown of Saqqez, it said.

AFP could not immediately confirm the accuracy of the videos. Internet access remains patchy across the country due to restrictions particularly affecting the north.

– mass arrests –

In an act of cyber defiance, the hacking group Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice) had posted an image on state television’s prime evening news on Saturday showing Khamenei in the crosshairs and being consumed by flames.

The crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death has claimed at least 95 lives, according to the Norway-based group Iran Human Rights.

Another 90 people were killed by security forces in the far-southeastern city of Zahedan from September 30 after protests were sparked by the alleged rape of a teenager by a police chief in Sistan-Balochistan province, the IHR said, citing the UK-based Baluch activists campaign.

Activists also accuse the authorities of waging a campaign of mass arrests and travel bans to quell the protests, which have not spared even the famous.

Ali Daei, once the world’s top international scorer in men’s football, had his passport confiscated when he returned to Tehran from abroad after bitterly criticizing the Islamic Republic on social media, Iranian media reported.

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