Iran protests swell on anniversary of lethal 2019 crackdown


Iranians took to the streets Tuesday after organisers of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death called for demonstrations marking three years since a lethal crackdown on unrest sparked by a fuel price hike.

The call to commemorate those slain in the 2019 crackdown gave new momentum to the protests that erupted following the death of 22-year-old Amini on September 16, after her arrest for allegedly flouting the strict dress code for women.

As the day began, shops were shuttered in Tehran’s famed Grand Bazaar and in other parts of the country, according to online videos verified by AFP. Iranian media outlets said the bazaar’s merchants shut up shop for fear of them being torched. In Tehran, the din of honking car horns reverberated as protesters blocked a major roundabout at Sanat Square and yelled “Freedom, freedom”, according to other verified footage.

People later poured onto the streets of other cities, including Bandar Abbas and Shiraz, where women were seen peacefully waving their headscarves above their heads.

As darkness fell, more people emerged onto the streets of the capital, some of them gathering around bonfires and chanting “Death to the dictator”, according to the 1500tasvir social media monitor.

Hengaw, an Oslo-based human rights group, said that security forces “opened fire and shot tear gas at protesters” after dark on Nawbahar Boulevard Kermanshah, a Kurdish city in western Iran.

The UN Human Rights Office called on Iran to immediately release thousands of people arrested for taking part in peaceful demonstrations.

“Instead of opening space for dialogue on legitimate grievances, the authorities are responding to unprecedented protests with increasing harshness,” spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.

“This year is the year of blood, Seyed Ali will be toppled,” a large crowd chanted outside a Tehran metro station, in a video verified by AFP, referring to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Workers downed tools and university students boycotted classes in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, in western Iran, Hengaw said.

In the province’s flashpoint city of Sanandaj, protesters were seen burning tyres in a street and chanting anti-government slogans, in other online footage.

“Woman, life, freedom” and “Man, homeland, prosperity,” chanted male and female students at Islamic Azad University in the northwestern city of Tabriz, in a video published by 1500tasvir.

The protests on Tuesday 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 tribunal in London this year by various rights groups said expert evidence suggested the toll was likely far more, possibly as high as 1,515.

On Tuesday, in a video shared by activists, students at Tehran’s Khajeh-Nasir university chanted “1,500 people were killed in Aban”.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights on Saturday said that security forces had killed at least 326 people, including 43 children and 25 women, in the crackdown.

The unrest was fanned by fury over the dress rules for women, but has grown into a broad 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 lethal force and a campaign of mass arrests that has snared activists, journalists and lawyers.

Former president and leading reformist Mohammad Khatami rejected the idea of a change of power in the Islamic republic, while admitting there was dissatisfaction with the current government.

“The overthrow (of 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 slapped sanctions on more than 30 senior Iranian officials and organisations over the crackdown.

Iran, which has accused the United States and its allies of fomenting the unrest, threatened to “respond effectively and forcefully”.

The US also condemned Iran’s cross-border drone and missile strikes Monday against Iraq-based Kurdish opposition groups that Tehran accuses of stoking what it calls the “riots” at home.

The UN Human Rights Council is due to hold an urgent session on Iran on November 24, with backers pushing for an international investigation into the deadly crackdown on the protests.__Daily Times