PARIS: Iranians took to the streets around the country again on Friday to protest against the killings of youths in a widely documented crackdown on demonstrations sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death.
The clerical state has been gripped by six weeks of protests that erupted when Amini, 22, died in custody after her arrest for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress rules for women.
Security forces have struggled to contain the women-led protests, that have evolved into a broader campaign to end the Islamic republic founded in 1979.
Videos widely shared online showed people rallying Friday across Iran, including in Mahabad, the flashpoint western city where a rights group said security forces had killed at least four people in the past two days.
The Norway-based Hengaw organisation added that two more people were killed on Thursday in Baneh, another city near Iran’s western border with Iraq.
“Unlawful killings” by the security forces had claimed least eight lives in four provinces within 24 hours, Amnesty International said late Thursday.
The bloodshed in Mahabad came as mourners paying tribute to Ismail Mauludi, a 35-year-old protester killed on Wednesday night, made their way from his funeral towards the governor’s office, Hengaw said.
Other verified footage showed clashes near the grave of 16-year-old Nika Shahkarami, outside the western city of Khorramabad, where dozens of people were marking the end of the traditional 40-day mourning period since she was killed by security forces.
“I’ll kill, I’ll kill, whoever killed my sister,” they could be heard chanting, in a video posted online by the US-based Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA).
Dozens of men were seen hurling projectiles under fire as they drove back security forces on a bridge near Shahkarami’s tomb.
The demonstrations came despite a crackdown that the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group said Tuesday has killed at least 141 protesters, including more than two dozen children.
At least another 93 people were killed during separate protests that erupted in the southeastern city of Zahedan on September 30 over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander, IHR says.
At least 20 security personnel have been killed in the Amini protests, according to rights groups, and at least another eight in Zahedan, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.
Worshippers in Zahedan came under automatic gunfire again Friday as they emerged from prayers, HRANA said, without specifying if there were any casualties.
The latest Amini protests were held in defiance of warnings from Khamenei and ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who appeared to try to link the movement to a mass shooting at a Shiite Muslim shrine in the southern city of Shiraz after Wednesday evening prayers, that state media said killed at least 15 worshippers.
But the protests triggered by Amini’s death on September 16 show no signs of dwindling, inflamed by public outrage over the crackdown that has cost the lives of many other young women and girls.
‘More killing would encourage protesters’
The Iranian authorities have had to quell the protests through various tactics, possibly in a bid to avoid fuelling yet more anger among the public.
They staged rallies on Friday in Tehran and other cities to denounce the Shiraz shrine attack, which was claimed by Daesh (Islamic State) group.
“I doubt that the security forces have ruled out conducting a larger-scale violent crackdown,” said Henry Rome, an Iran specialist at the Washington Institute.
“For now they appear to be trying other techniques - arrests and intimidation, calibrated internet shutdowns, killing some protesters, and fuelling uncertainty and an overall securitised environment,” he told AFP.
“They may be making the calculation that more killing would encourage, rather than deter, protesters - if that judgement shifts, then the situation would likely become even more violent.”
Amnesty called for urgent action to halt the bloodshed.
“Failure to act decisively will only embolden the Iranian authorities to further crackdown against mourners and protesters set to gather in the coming days during commemorations marking 40 days since the first deaths of protesters,” it said.
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, decried the “brutality” of Iran’s regime and called for an international mechanism to investigate scores of deaths.
An official Iranian medical report issued concluded Amini’s death was caused by illness, due to “surgery for a brain tumour at the age of eight”, and not police brutality.
But lawyers acting for her family have rejected the findings and called for a re-examination of her death.