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Iran’s shopkeepers, factory workers join strike action as Mahsa Amini protests widen

Activists issue call for fresh demonstrations as Iranian working week gets underway, but it’s difficult to gauge the turnout due to curbs on internet access

Iranians protest the death of Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 1, 2022. (Photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran/ Middle East Images)
Iranians protest the death of Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 1, 2022. (Photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran/ Middle East Images)

PARIS — Shopkeepers and factory workers went on strike in Iran on Saturday as nationwide protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini entered a sixth week, activists said.

The death of 22-year-old Amini, after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code for women, has fuelled the biggest protests seen in the Islamic republic for years.

Young women have led the charge, removing their headscarves, chanting anti-government slogans and confronting the security forces on the streets, despite a crackdown that rights groups say has killed at least 122 people.

Activists issued a call for fresh demonstrations as the Iranian working week got underway on Saturday, but it was difficult to immediately gauge the turnout due to curbs on internet access.

“On Saturday… We will be together for freedom,” activist Atena Daemi said in a Twitter post that bore an image of a bare-headed woman with her fist raised in the air.

The 1500tasvir social media channel told AFP that there were “strikes in a couple of cities including Sanandaj, Bukan and Saqez” but added that it was difficult to see evidence of them online as “the internet connection is too slow.”

An Iranian woman protests a 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini’s death after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images)

Saqez, in the western province of Kurdistan, is Amini’s hometown, where anger flared at her burial last month, helping trigger the protest movement.

The Norway-based Hengaw rights group also said shopkeepers were on strike in Bukan, Sanandaj and Saqez, as well as Marivan.

‘Systematic oppression’

Elsewhere, dozens of students were seen clapping and chanting during a protest at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, in a video tweeted by 1500tasvir on Saturday.

Dozens of workers were seen gathering outside the Aidin chocolate factory in Tabriz, the capital of the East Azerbaijan province, in other footage it shared. AFP was unable to immediately verify the videos.

People were also gathering around the world on Saturday for rallies in solidarity with the Iranian protest movement.

In Tokyo, demonstrators held up portraits of Amini and others who have been killed in the crackdown, as well as a banner bearing the protest slogan: “Women, life, freedom,”

People demonstrate during the “Freedom rally for Iran” event following the death of Mahsa Amini in Shibuya district of Tokyo on October 22, 2022. (Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP)

Iranians living in Germany were converging on Berlin ahead of a major demonstration later Saturday, activists said.

A teachers’ union in Iran has called for a nationwide strike on Sunday and Monday over the crackdown that Amnesty International says has cost the lives of at least 23 children.

In a statement, the Co-ordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates said the “sit-in” would be in response to “systematic oppression” by the security forces at schools.

It identified four teenagers who had been killed in the crackdown — Nika Shahkarami, Sarina Esmailzadeh, Abolfazl Adinezadeh and Asra Panahi — and said a large number of teachers had been arrested without charge.

“Iran’s teachers do not tolerate these atrocities and tyranny and proclaim that we are for the people, and these bullets and pellets you shoot at the people target our lives and souls,” it said.

‘Detaining, maiming and killing’

Activists have also accused the authorities of a campaign of mass arrests and travel bans to quell the protests, with athletes, celebrities and journalists caught up in the dragnet.

Overnight an Iranian climber, who was reportedly placed under house arrest for competing abroad last weekend without a headscarf, thanked her supporters on Instagram.

Iranian competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi speaks to journalists at the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, October 19, 2022. (IRNA via AP)

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, wore only a headband in an event at the Asian Championships in Seoul, in what many saw as a gesture of solidarity with the Amini protests.

“I sincerely thank all those who came to the airport for welcoming me, I love you,” Rekabi said in her first social media comments since returning to Iran on Wednesday to a hero’s welcome.

The BBC and London-based Iran International television said on Friday that Rekabi had been placed under house arrest.

Her phone had reportedly been seized from her before she flew home.

On Friday, a New York-based human rights group called on the International Federation of Sport Climbing to do more to protect her.

IFSC “should engage with rights organizations to protect pro climber #ElnazRekabi and all Iranian athletes”, the Center for Human Rights in Iran tweeted.

“Don’t take the government in Iran’s word at face value — it has a documented history of detaining, maiming and killing those who oppose it,” the CHRI added.

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