Hundreds of protesters marched Wednesday to the gravesite of Mahsa Amini in northwestern Iran to mark 40 days since her death while in custody of the nation’s morality police.
Amateur video posted to social media sites showed crowds of protesters, some in vehicles but mostly on foot, filling the road leading to Aichi cemetery in the Kurdistan province city Saqez, which was Amini’s hometown. Witnesses reported shots being fired in the area by Iranian security forces.
The demonstrators, who could be heard yelling, “Death to the dictator” among other chants, marched in defiance of heightened security measures put in place in anticipation of further protests Wednesday.
VOA’s Persian service reported protesters also gathered in Tehran, where they chanted “Down with the dictator” and “Don’t be afraid, we are all together.”
Amini, a Kurdish woman, was detained by the morality police in the capital, Tehran, September 13 allegedly wearing her head scarf – or hijab – “improperly.” The 22-year-old died while custody three days later, with police reporting she had a heart attack. Her family says she had no history of heart trouble.
Deaths are commemorated in Shi’ite Islam — as in many other traditions — 40 days later, typically with an outpouring of grief. Riot police and the paramilitary Basij Resistance Force were reportedly deployed in Saqez and other parts of Kurdistan.
Iranian state media reported all schools and universities in the province were closed Wednesday because of what authorities said was a “wave of influenza.”
Amini’s death has sparked weeks of protests over the mandatory wearing of hijabs by women and sparked calls for changes to Iran’s political system. The government has responded with security forces often using live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrations.
Rights groups say more than 200 people have died during the protests and hundreds, if not thousands, have been arrested. Analysts say the protests have become one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic in its history.__VOANews