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Iranian protesters return to the streets in defiance of regime crackdown

Students stage sit-in protest at Isfahan University, while mourners attend 40th day memorial ceremony for protester Siavash Mahmoudi, who was shot dead by security forces

Iranians protest the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (Photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Middle East Images/AP)
Iranians protest the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (Photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Middle East Images/AP)

PARIS (AFP) — Iranians staged new protests Tuesday to denounce the country’s theocratic regime in defiance of a crackdown that has seen prominent figures arrested and some even face the death penalty.

Iran has been rocked by six weeks of protests of a scale and nature unprecedented since the 1979 Islamic revolution, sparked by the death in mid-September of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the Tehran morality police.

The authorities have warned protesters it is time to leave the streets but the demonstrations have shown no sign of abating, with people rallying in residential areas, on major avenues and at universities nationwide.

The challenge for the regime is compounded by the custom in Iran to mark 40 days since a person died, turning every “chehelom” mourning ceremony for the dozens killed in the crackdown into a new potential protest flashpoint.

Residents of the Tehran district of Ekbatan late Monday shouted slogans including “Death to the dictator” while security forces used stun grenades against them, according to footage posted on the monitoring site 1500tasvir and other outlets.

Norway-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said that students were on Tuesday staging a sit-in protest at Isfahan University while social media footage indicated similar actions at other faculties in Tehran and Isfahan.

IHR said a large number of people Tuesday attended the 40th day mourning ceremony for protester Siavash Mahmoudi, who it said was shot dead by the security forces, at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery outside Tehran, also chanting “Death to the dictator.”

Students at Beheshti University in Tehran, including some women not wearing headscarves, staged a march shouting “chant for your rights!” according to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Amini’s death was, according to family members, caused by a blow to the head while in custody. The Iranian authorities contest this explanation and said they have ordered an investigation.

The protests were fueled by anger over the strict Islamic dress code for women in Iran — which the police who arrested Amini were enforcing — but have become a rallying point for popular anger against the regime that has ruled Iran since the fall of the shah in 1979.

While there have been outbursts of protests in Iran over the past two decades, the current movement has regularly broken taboos.

Images shared on social media showed murals of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had been daubed with red paint in the holy city of Qom.

The protests have also seen a myriad of different tactics, with observers noting a new trend of young people tipping off the turbans of clerics in the street.

According to IHR, 160 people have been killed in the crackdown on the protests sparked by Amini’s death and another 93 in a distinct protest wave in Zahedan in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.

The Norway-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw said among those buried was Komar Daruftade, a 16-year-old from Piranshahr in northwestern Iran who it said had been shot by security forces at a distance of three meters (15 feet) and later died in hospital.

A viral video, which AFP could not immediately verify, showed police in the Tehran district of Naziabad savagely beating a protester, running him over with a motorbike and firing at him.

Thousands have been arrested nationwide in the crackdown, rights activists say, while Iran’s judiciary has said 1,000 people have already been charged in connection with what it labelled “riots.”

The trial of five men charged with offences that can carry capital punishment over the protests opened Saturday in Tehran.

In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Iranians protest the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (Middle East Images/AP)

One of them, Mohammad Ghobadlou, was sentenced to death at the first session, according to a video from his mother posted by the Washington-based Abdorrahman Boroumand Center. However this has not been confirmed by the judiciary.

The popular Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has become the latest high profile figure to be arrested, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

“You are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation… in order to keep its power, money and weapons,” Toomaj had told the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation last week.

At least 46 journalists have been arrested so far, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The culture ministry says eight of those arrested have been released so far.

Tehran journalist Marzieh Amiri was the latest to be detained, her sister Samira wrote on Instagram.

Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad, an Iranian national resident in France, was arrested a month ago in Iranian Kurdistan while covering the protests for French-German TV channel Arte, the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile the prominent freedom of expression campaigner and Wall Street Journal contributor Hossein Ronaghi, who was arrested shortly after the protests began, is on “hunger strike and not well,” his brother Hassan wrote on Twitter.

Both Ronaghi’s legs have been broken while in custody, he wrote, after the activist was granted a meeting with his parents.

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