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‘Two dead’ as Iran protests swell on anniversary of lethal 2019 crackdown

With country still roiled by ongoing protests in wake of Mahsa Amini’s death, activists call for people to ‘conquer’ the streets of Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and others

Iranian women walk in a commercial district without wearing their mandatory Islamic headscarves in northern Tehran, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian women walk in a commercial district without wearing their mandatory Islamic headscarves in northern Tehran, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

PARIS — Iranian security forces shot dead at least two protesters Tuesday, a rights group said, as demonstrations sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death swelled on the anniversary of a bloody 2019 crackdown.

The protesters were responding to a call to commemorate those slain in the 2019 crackdown, giving new momentum to the demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Amini in mid-September this year, after her arrest for allegedly flouting Iran’s strict dress code for women.

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 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.

“The government forces have directly opened fire in most of the cities where uprisings have taken place, such as Sanandaj, Kamyaran and Kermanshah,” Hengaw told AFP.

Iranians gather around a charred police station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in the central city of Isfahan on November 17, 2019. (AFP)

“Two people have been killed by direct fire from government forces in Sanandaj and Kamyaran,” it said, adding that it was trying to confirm reports that more protesters were killed.

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.

‘Year of blood’

“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 tires 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.

Striking steel workers were seen gathering in a car park in the historic city of Isfahan, in other footage shared by 1500tasvir. AFP was unable to immediately verify the videos.

Work stoppages were being observed in 16 cities in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, in western Iran, said the Oslo-based Hengaw human rights group.

They included Baneh, Divandarreh, Kamiyaran, Marivan and the flashpoint city of Sanandaj.

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”.

UN rights session

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.

Screen capture from video of the arrest of prominent Iranian dissident Hossein Ronaghi, September 2022. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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 organizations 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.

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