A clergyman was killed in a troubled Iranian city, protests continue
DUBAI (Reuters) – A cleric at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Iran’s restive, predominantly Sunni Muslim city of Zahedan has been shot dead, the official IRNA news agency reported, threatening to escalate sectarian tensions that are complicating government efforts to contain widespread unrest. .
IRNA named the deceased cleric Sajjad Shahraki.
“A special task force has been formed to identify and arrest the criminals,” said Sistan Balochistan Provincial Police Commander Ahmad Taheri.
Zahedan was the scene of one of the deadliest days in a wave of popular protests that has swept the Islamic Republic since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police.
Amnesty International reported that security forces killed at least 66 people in a crackdown on protesters in Zahedan on September 30.
The authorities of a city in the extreme southeast of Iran dismissed the police commander and the head of the police department.
Zahedan’s killings were widely criticized, including by a senior Sunni cleric who said senior officials in the Shiite establishment, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were responsible “before God.”
The nationwide demonstrations, which have been chanting calls for Khamenei’s death, are one of the boldest challenges to the state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran blames the protests on its foreign enemies and their proxies and accuses them of trying to destabilize the country.
Zahedan, near Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to the Baloch minority, estimated at up to 2 million people, who have suffered decades of discrimination and repression, according to rights groups.
The Sistan-Baluchistan region around Zahedan is one of the poorest in the country and has been a hotbed of tension, with Iranian security forces attacked by Baloch militants.
Forty prominent Iranian human rights lawyers have publicly criticized Iran’s Shiite theocracy, saying the crackdown that has suppressed dissent for decades will no longer work and that protesters seeking a new political order will prevail.
“The government is still drowning in illusions and believes it can repress, arrest and kill to silence,” the lawyers, some inside the country and some abroad, said in a statement sent to Reuters.
“But the flood of people will eventually remove the government, because the divine will is on the side of the people. The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Those inside Iran are threatened with arrest with such comments. But the lawyers’ announcement is the latest example of how a growing number of Iranians are no longer paralyzed by the fear of the state that kept them in line for decades.
Among the attorneys signing the statement is Saeed Dehghan, who has represented dual citizens imprisoned in Iran on security-related charges. Another is Giti Purfazel, who was among the activists jailed for signing an open letter in 2019 calling on Khamenei to step down. He was released in 2021.
Major protests in past years, which have been violently suppressed, have focused on election results and economic issues, while the current unrest has one main demand: the fall of the Islamic Republic.
Iran is expanding its crackdown, deploying security forces to protests and arresting a wide range of Iranians, from lawyers to doctors to rappers.
Videos shared on social media showed a crowd of hundreds gathered on a central avenue in the city of Karaj on Thursday to pay their respects to Hadis Najafi, a young woman shot dead by security forces, according to her sister and social media.
Protesters in Karaj, west of the capital Tehran, were seen in an online video burning and tearing apart the brown “abah”, a long robe worn by Shiite clerics.
According to the semi-official Tasnim news agency, a member of the “Basij” group was killed in Karaj, and five policemen were injured during the riots.
Human Rights Watch says Iranian authorities have stepped up their crackdown on widespread dissent and protests, bringing dubious national security charges against detained activists and staging grossly unfair trials.
“Iran’s vicious security apparatus is using every tactic in its book, including lethal force against protesters, arresting and defaming human rights defenders and journalists, and sham trials to suppress widespread dissent,” said Tara Sepehri, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. Farr.
“However, each new atrocity only reinforces why Iranians demand fundamental change in the corrupt autocracy.”
The 27-year-old rapper from Kermanshah has been charged as an “enemy of God,” a major crime under Iran’s Islamic law, human rights group Hengaw said on Thursday. According to the human rights group, Saman Yassin sang protest songs in Kurdish and was tortured during the first three weeks of his detention.
Iran has denied allegations by human rights organizations that it abuses prisoners.
(Writing by Michael Georgi; Editing by Alison Williams, William McLean and Mark Heinrich)
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