Iranians took to the streets on Tuesday after organizers of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death called demonstrations, three years after a deadly crackdown on unrest sparked by a gas price hike.
The call to commemorate those killed in the 2019 raid gave new impetus to protests that erupted after the death of 22-year-old Amini on September 16 following her arrest for allegedly flouting the strict dress code for women.
Earlier in the day, shops were closed in Tehran’s famous Grand Bazaar and other parts of the country, according to online videos verified by AFP. Iranian media said the bazaar’s vendors had closed their shops for fear of being set on fire.
In Tehran, the blare of honking car horns echoed as protesters blocked a major traffic circle in Sanat Square, chanting “freedom, freedom,” according to other verified footage.
Later, people flocked to the streets of other cities, including Bandar Abbas and Shiraz, where women peacefully waved their headscarves over their heads.
As darkness fell, more people appeared on the streets of the capital, some of them gathered around bonfires and shouted “Death to the dictator,” according to 1500tasvir’s social media monitor.
Hengaw, an Oslo-based human rights group, said after dark on Nawbahar Boulevard in Kermanshah, a Kurdish city in western Iran, security forces “opened fire and fired tear gas at protesters.”
The UN human rights office called on Iran to immediately release thousands of people arrested for taking part in peaceful demonstrations.
“Rather than making room for dialogue about legitimate grievances, the authorities are responding to unprecedented protests with increasing severity,” spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.
– ‘Year of Blood’ –
“This year is the year of blood, Seyed Ali will be overthrown,” chanted a large crowd outside a Tehran subway station in a video confirmed by AFP, referring to Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Amini’s home province of Kurdistan in western Iran, workers have knocked down tools and university students have boycotted classes, Hengaw said.
In Sanandaj, the province’s hotspot, protesters were seen in other online footage burning tires and chanting anti-government slogans on a street.
“Woman, life, freedom” and “Man, homeland, prosperity,” chanted male and female students at Azad Islamic University in the northwestern city of Tabriz in a video released by 1500tasvir.
Tuesday’s protests marked the third anniversary of the start of “Bloody Aban” – or Bloody November – when a surprise overnight fuel price hike sparked bloody street violence that lasted for days.
Amnesty International said at least 304 people were killed, but a London tribunal this year of various human rights groups said expert evidence suggested the number of victims was likely far higher, possibly as high as 1,515.
On Tuesday, students at Khajeh Nasir University in Tehran chanted, “1,500 people were killed in Aban” in a video shared by activists.
– UN Legal Session –
Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said Saturday that security forces killed at least 326 people, including 43 children and 25 women, in the raid.
The riots were fueled by anger over women’s dress codes but have grown into a broader movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
It has shown no sign of abating despite the authorities’ use of deadly force and a campaign of mass arrests that has gripped activists, journalists and lawyers.
Former President and leading reformer Mohammad Khatami dismissed the idea of ??a power shift in the Islamic Republic but admitted there was dissatisfaction with the current government.
“Overthrowing (the system) is neither possible nor desirable, but the continuation of the current situation leads to social collapse,” Khatami, president from 1997 to 2005, was quoted as saying by reformist newspapers.
The European Union and Britain have sanctioned more than 30 senior Iranian officials and organizations over the actions.
Iran, which has accused the United States and its allies of fomenting the unrest, threatened to “react effectively and forcefully.”
The US also condemned Iran’s cross-border drone and missile attacks on Monday against Iraq-based Kurdish opposition groups, which Tehran accuses of fueling so-called “unrest” at home.
The UN Human Rights Council is due to hold an urgent session on Iran on November 24, with supporters pushing for an international probe into the deadly crackdown on the protests.