‘No longer afraid’: More violence as protests in Iran enter fourth week

Schoolgirls chanted slogans, workers went on strike and protesters clashed violently with security forces across Iran on Saturday as demonstrations over the death of Mahsa Amini entered a fourth week.

Anger flared after the death of the 22-year-old Iranian Kurd on September 16, three days after her arrest in Tehran by the notorious vice squad for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

Iran said Friday an investigation has been found Amini had died of a long illness rather than “blows” to the head, despite her family reportedly saying she had been healthy before.

Amini’s father told London-based Iran International that he rejected the official report.

“I saw with my own eyes that blood had come from Mahsa’s ears and the back of her neck,” the outlet quoted him as saying on Saturday.

The women-led protests continued even as ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi posed for a group photo with students at Tehran’s all-female Al-Zahra University to mark the new academic year.

On the same campus, young women were seen shouting “Death to the oppressor,” the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group said.

In Amini’s hometown of Saqez, in Kurdistan province, schoolgirls chanted “Woman, life, freedom” and marched down a street wearing headscarves in the air, in videos the Hengaw rights group said had been recorded on Saturday.

Horrific videos were shared online of a man being shot and killed while driving his car in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan.

The province’s police chief Ali Azadi said he was “killed by anti-revolutionary forces”.

Angry men appeared to take revenge on a member of the feared Basij militia in Sanandaj, who swarmed and beat him badly, in a widely shared video.

we will fight

Internet monitor Netblocks reported outages in Sanandaj and nationwide mobile network outages.

Another shocking video shows a young woman allegedly shot dead in Mashhad. Many on social media compared it to images of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman who became an enduring symbol of the opposition after she was shot dead in protests in 2009.

Despite internet restrictions, protesters have adopted new tactics to get their message across.

“We are no longer afraid. We will fight,” a large banner on a Modares highway overpass in Tehran said, according to online images verified by AFP.

Other footage shows a man changing the text of a large government billboard on the same highway from “The police are the servants of the people” to “The police are the murderers of the people”.

The ISNA news agency reported a heavy security presence in the capital, especially near universities. It said “scattered and limited rallies” were held in Tehran, with “some protesters destroying public property”.

Street protests were also reported in Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz and Tabriz, among others.

US-based campaigner and journalist Omid Memarian tweeted: “Videos coming out of Tehran indicate that there are so many protests, in every corner of the city, in small and large numbers.”

Hengaw, a Norway-based Kurdish rights group, said “widespread strikes” were taking place in Saqez, Sanandaj and Divandarreh, in Kurdistan province, as well as Mahabad in western Azerbaijan.

blind eye

IHR said at least 95 protesters were killed in the crackdown, which has fueled tensions between Iran and the West, most notably its nemesis the United States.

Citing the UK-based Baluch Activists Campaign, IHR said a further 90 people had been killed in Sistan-Baluchestan province after allegations that a regional police chief raped a teenage girl caused unrest there.

Raisi – who in July called for the mobilization of all state institutions to enforce the hijab rules – met with the judiciary and the parliament speaker on Saturday night, state news agency IRNA reported.

“They emphasized that Iranian society now needs unity from all layers regardless of language, religion and ethnicity to overcome the animosity and division against Iran,” IRNA said.

Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of fueling the protests, announcing last week that nine foreigners – including from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands – had been arrested.

On Friday, France advised its nationals visiting Iran to “leave the country as soon as possible”, citing the risk of arbitrary detention.

The Netherlands advised its citizens not to travel or leave Iran if it is safe to do so.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker who was held in Tehran for six years until her release in March, called on the British government to act against Iran’s rights violations.

“We cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Iran,” she told Sky News. “And I think we should hold Iran accountable.”

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