Iran thwarts commemoration of Mahsa Amini death: rights groups


Iranian authorities on Saturday prevented the family of Mahsa Amini from holding a ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of her death, confining her father to his home, as sporadic protests were reported nationwide despite heavy security, rights groups said.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died a few days after her arrest by religious police for allegedly violating the strict dress code for women in force since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Her family says she died from a blow to the head but this is disputed by Iranian authorities.

Anger over her death rapidly expanded into weeks of taboo-breaking protests which saw women tearing off their mandatory headscarves in an open challenge to the Islamic republic’s system of government under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mahsa Amimi’s father Amjad was detained early on Saturday as he left the family home in the western town of Saqez, and then released after being warned not to hold a memorial service at her graveside, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN), 1500tasvir monitor and Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said.

Security personnel were stationed outside the family home to prevent him leaving, the groups added in separate statements.

“Amjad Amini is under house arrest… Security forces are preventing him from visiting his daughter’s grave,” said IHR.

Official news agency IRNA described reports of the father’s brief detention as “false”, adding they were aimed at “inciting the population to protest”.

Amjad Amini was already summoned by intelligence officials last week after his announcement he planned to hold a memorial ceremony. One of Amini’s uncles, Safa Aeli, was detained in Saqez on September 5 and remains in custody.

‘Chokehold on dissent’

There was no sign of the ceremony taking place at her grave at the Aichi cemetery in Saqez, with the rights groups saying security forces had blocked access.

Kurdish-focused group Hengaw said a young man named Fardin Jafari was in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the head near the cemetery. It was not immediately possible to confirm the report.

The protests sparked by Amini’s death lost momentum after several months in the face of a crackdown that saw security forces kill 551 protesters, according to IHR, and arrest more than 22,000, according to Amnesty International.

Iranian authorities say dozens of security personnel were also killed in what they describe as “riots” incited by foreign governments and hostile media.

Seven men have been executed after being convicted in protest-related cases.

Campaigners say the authorities have renewed their crackdown in the runup to the anniversary, putting pressure on relatives of those killed in the protests in a bid to stop them speaking out.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said family members of at least 36 people killed or executed in the crackdown had been interrogated, arrested, prosecuted or sentenced to prison over the past month with authorities imposing a “chokehold on dissent”.

With additional security forces sent to the area, Hengaw said people in western Iran were expressing discontent through a general strike, with shops closed in a dozen towns and cities including Saqez.

‘Take back Iran’

Witnesses in Tehran meanwhile said there was a heavy security presence, with anti-riot police and security vehicles on the main streets and squares.

Persian-language channels based outside Iran, including Iran International, broadcast footage of residents shouting “Death to the dictator” and the main protest slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom” from apartment blocks in Tehran and its satellite city of Karaj overnight.

Monitory 1500tasvir posted footage of dozens of people staging a daylight protest on Saturday on a street in the Gohardasht district of Karaj shouting “we will take Iran back!” and other slogans.

Simular gatherings were also reported in the central city of Isfahan and the southern city of Shiraz.

In a symbolic move on Friday, President Ebrahim Raisi met with families of security personnel killed during the protests while on a visit to the northeastern city of Mashhad, state media said.

Activists have said there has been a new wave of arrests in Kurdish-populated western Iran ahead of the anniversary. The state news agency reported authorities had arrested several groups on suspicion of “planning to create chaos” and producing content to serve “hostile media”..

Under the slogan “Say her name!”, Iranian emigres were holding commemorative rallies from Sydney to Toronto, with thousands in Place de la Bastille in central Paris chanting protest slogans and waving pre-revolutionary