Angry Iranians protest ‘Bloody Friday’ massacre


Hundreds of angry men protested after Friday prayers in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, online videos showed, six weeks after rights groups say dozens were killed during a crackdown in the region.

Security forces shot dead more than 90 people at protests after weekly prayers on September 30 in the provincial capital Zahedan, on Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan, said Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR).

It came two weeks after demonstrations flared in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for allegedly flouting the country’s strict dress code for women. The protests have grown into a broad movement against the theocracy under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83.

“Death to Khamenei,” chanted men who emerged from mosques in Zahedan after Friday prayers, in a video published by IHR.

The rights group says at least 304 people have been killed at the protests across Iran since Amini’s death on September 16.

It says around a third of them were killed in Sistan-Baluchistan, including at least 92 who died on September 30 — in a massacre activists have dubbed “Bloody Friday”.

The latest demonstrations come a week after more than a dozen people were killed in a crackdown in Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan.

Amnesty International said at least 18 protesters, bystanders and worshippers — including two children — were killed in the crackdown on the “largely peaceful protests” in Khash.

Protests resumed Friday in Khash, and dozens of riot police were deployed in Iranshahr, in the same province, online videos verified by AFP showed.

Security forces were seen firing tear gas to disperse protesters in Iranshahr, in footage published by the 1500tasvir monitoring channel.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency said a week of appeals by “counter-revolutionaries” to create trouble 40 days after the Zahedan incident had failed.

Worshippers went home from Iran’s largest Sunni mosque in Zahedan without incident, except for some shouting of anti-government slogans, Tasnim said.

In other locations including Khash, Iranshahr and Rask there had been only “small demonstrations” with anti-government chants, the agency said.

It added that in Iranshahr, demonstrators headed from a Sunni mosque toward a police station at which they threw stones until security forces intervened.

In Rask, residents burned tires that briefly blocked the road leading to Chabahar port, Tasnim said.

‘Systemic impunity’

London-based Amnesty said it had recorded the names of at least 100 protesters killed by security forces in Sistan-Baluchistan since September 30, but added that the real number was much higher.

The rights group called on the international community “to take urgent action to stop further killings”, and called on the UN Human Rights Council to set up “an independent investigative and accountability mechanism to investigate crimes”.

Mass arrests have seen 1,000 people charged so far and activists say many risk the death penalty.

A panel of UN rights experts took that cause up on Friday, urging “Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests”.

Iran’s foreign minister on Thursday accused Western countries of “promoting violence and teaching (protesters) to make weapons and Molotov cocktails via social networks and the media”.

In a phone call with UN chief Antonio Guterres, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also criticised Western nations that have pressed for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Iran´s crackdown.

He said such a session should instead be held for “governments that propagate violence and terror, not for (Iran), which is the true defender of human rights and has exercised serious restraint regarding the recent riots”.

‘Chant Amini’s name’

The crackdown has mainly involved riot police, the Revolutionary Guards and their Basij paramilitary force.

But Iran´s army ground forces commander said his troops were awaiting orders from Khamenei to intervene against the protesters.

Brigadier General Kioumars Heydari said the army’s lack of involvement so far should not be misinterpreted.

“If today the revolutionary community is not responding, it is because that is what the supreme leader has decided,” he said. “But the day he gives the order to deal with them, they will have no place in our country.”

Iran’s campaign of mass arrests against the protests has snared athletes, celebrities and journalists.

Activists have called on football fans attending the World Cup starting later this month to chant Amini’s name during the 22nd minute at each of Iran´s matches. She was 22 years old when she died.

“Help us immortalise #MahsaAmini and our fight against this brutal regime. At the 22nd minute of each World Cup game, say #MahsaAmini,” tweeted New York-based campaigner Masih Alinejad.

Iran will face England, Wales and the United States at the tournament.__The News