iran lproterst-1666360943593
Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran. Image Credit: AP

Tehran: Iran’s judiciary should take tough measures against protesters and anyone who thinks the country’s rulers will fall is dreaming, a senior cleric said.

The Islamic Republic has been gripped by demonstrations that erupted after the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month.

“The judiciary should deal with the rioters - who betrayed the nation and poured water into the enemy’s watermill - in such a way that others don’t again fancy to riot,” hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami said in a Friday prayers sermon in Tehran, Iranian media reported.

“They have told deceived kids if they stay in the streets for a week the regime will fall. Dream on! The judiciary should deal with rioters in such a way they would never aspire to riot.” Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to “foreign enemies” for the unrest.

The nationwide protests have turned into one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution.

Protesters have called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic, although the protests do not seem close to toppling the system.

As protests continued in several cities, the activist website 1500tasvir posted a video it said showed a demonstration in the central city of Isfahan and footage purporting to show protesters lighting fires on streets of the northwestern city of Mahabad late on Thursday.

Videos of protests have been delayed because of internet restrictions imposed in Iran by authorities, activists say.

The activist news agency HRANA said in a posting that 244 protesters had been killed in the unrest, including 32 minors.

It said 28 members of the security forces were killed and over 12,500 people had been arrested until Thursday in protests in 114 cities and towns and some 81 universities.

Iran teachers to strike over ‘merciless’ crackdown on children

Meanwhile, an Iranian teachers’ union has called a two-day strike from Sunday over the lethal targeting of schoolchildren in a crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death.

The Co-ordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates on Thursday called a strike in response to the crackdown that Amnesty International says has cost the lives of at least 23 children.

“The Co-ordinating Council declares sit-in strikes for Sunday and Monday. We teachers will be present at schools but will refrain from being present in classes,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

“We know very well that the military and security forces and plainclothes (officers) have violated schools and educational centres,” it said.

“During this systematic oppression, they have mercilessly taken the lives of a number of pupils and children; from Nika (Shahkarami) and Sarina (Esmailzadeh), to Abolfazl (Adinezadeh) and Asra Panahi.”

The four, all in their teens, were killed by Iran’s security forces during the crackdown on the nationwide protests that has flared since September 16, when Amini died in custody, according to human rights groups.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said on Thursday that at least 27 children have been killed by the security forces and that children and teachers are among the thousands arrested in the crackdown.

In its statement, the teachers’ union said “a large number of teachers have been arrested” without being charged.

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

“This is why the Co-ordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates supports the rightful protests of the people across Iran, and condemns the killings and oppression of past weeks.”

It vowed to “continue our protest until the people’s right to protest is recognised, all pupils are unconditionally freed and return to schools, the system stops killing the people and children, and stops answering the people’s rightful demands with bullets”.