Protests in the North West after the death of a teenager
In Tehran, students chant “Death to religious leaders”
Authorities say the Islamic Republic will not be uprooted
DUBAI, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Protesters across Iran on Saturday defied a crackdown that has lasted nearly a month, activists said, chanting in the streets and at universities against the country’s religious leaders in a sustained wave of anger at the death of Mahsa Amini.
One of the most serious challenges is the protests that have swept Iran since Amini – a 22-year-old woman from the country’s Kurdish region – died on September 16 while being detained for “inappropriate dress”. for the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
Although the unrest does not appear close to overthrowing the system, the protests have broadened into strikes that have closed shops and businesses, hit the vital energy sector and inspired brazen acts of dissent against Iran’s religious regime.
A video released by Norway’s Iran Human Rights organization claimed to show protests in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran’s second most populous city, with protesters chanting “Religious people are getting lost ” and honking drivers.
Videos released by the group showed a strike by shopkeepers in the northwestern Kurdish town of Saqez, Amini’s hometown, and high school girls chanting “Woman, life, freedom” in the streets of Sanandaj, the capital of the province of Kurdistan.
Demonstrations were also reported in Isfahan, central Iran, and in the southeast of the country.
Reuters could not independently verify the videos. Phone and internet services in Iran have been frequently disrupted over the past month and internet watchdog NetBlocks reported “a major further disruption” shortly before protests began on Saturday.
Amini died in custody after being detained by the vice squad for breaking strict religious rules requiring women to dress modestly.
Rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed in the nationwide crackdown, including teenage girls whose deaths have become a rallying cry for new protests demanding the fall of the Islamic Republic.
Protesters on Saturday called for demonstrations in the northwestern town of Ardabil following the death of Asra Panahi, a teenage girl from the ethnic Azeri minority who activists say was beaten at killed by security forces.
Officials denied the report, and news agencies close to the Revolutionary Guards quoted her uncle as saying the high school student died of a heart problem.
Videos posted to social media by activist website 1500tasvir claimed to show street protests in Ardabil, while another social media video showed riot police retreating from rock-throwing protesters.
Iran has blamed the violence on enemies at home and abroad, including armed separatists and Western powers, accusing them of conspiring against the Islamic Republic and denying that security forces killed protesters.
In his harshest warning to protesters to date, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – whose overthrow many protesters have demanded – said on Friday no one should dare to think he can uproot the Islamic Republic.
State television reported that at least 26 members of the security forces were killed. The Tehran commander of the Basij militia forces that deployed against the protesters told Tehran that three Basij had been killed and 850 others injured.
Hasan Hasanzadeh told the official IRNA news agency that there were 380 Basij battalions in Tehran, without giving exact figures.
In Tehran’s Shariaty Technical University, female students chanted slogans against the clerical regime that has lasted for four decades. “So many years of crimes, death to this religious leadership,” they chanted, according to a video posted on social media.
Iran’s Foreign Minister spoke on Friday with European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who urged Tehran to end its crackdown on protesters.
In a phone call, Hossein Amirabdollahian said Borrell Iran allowed peaceful protests and his government had popular support, state media said. “Therefore, we recommend that Europeans look at the issue with a realistic approach,” he said.
New EU sanctions against around 15 Iranians are expected to be approved on Monday, diplomats said. The asset freeze and travel bans will have little concrete impact on individuals, but diplomats said it sends a political message and shows growing international concern over the crackdown.
(Reporting from the Dubai office Writing by Dominic Evans Editing by Helen Popper)