Iran protests enter 6th week

Traders and workers in several cities across Iran staged strikes on Saturday amid protests sparked more than a month ago by the death of young Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini after her arrest, according to NGOs.

Mahsa Amini, 22, died three days after she was arrested in Tehran by morality police who accused her of breaking the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code, where the veil is compulsory for all women in public spaces .

The crackdown on protests, the largest in Iran since those in 2019 against rising fuel prices, has left at least 122 people dead, including children, according to Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR).

Iranian women, many bareheaded, were at the forefront of the protest movement, chanting slogans against power and confronting the security forces.

New demonstrations took place on Saturday but it is difficult to assess the extent of them due to the restrictions on Internet access imposed by the authorities. They were also accompanied by strikes.

“Systematic oppression”

The online media 1500tasvir reported « strikes […] organized in cities, including Sanandaj, Bukan and Saqez (north-west)”. The latter is the birthplace of Masha Amini.

The rights group Hengaw, based in Norway, also spoke of shopkeepers on strike in these same towns, as well as in Marivan (west).

In Tabriz, capital of East Azerbaijan province, dozens of workers gathered outside a chocolate factory, according to other videos that could not immediately be verified by AFP.

Students protested at several universities in the country, 1500tasvir said, citing the Faculty of Arts and Architecture in Yazd (center), the University of Tehran, Allameh Tabatabai University, in the east of the capital, the Razi University in Kermanshah (north-west), as well as those of Hamedan (west), Ahvaz and Yasouj (south-west).

Dozens of students cheered and sang during a protest at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, according to a video tweeted Saturday by 1500tasvir.

Another video, filmed at the University of Medical Sciences in Tabriz, shows dozens of students applauding and chanting slogans hostile to the Iranian authorities.

A teachers’ union has also called for a national strike in the country on Sunday and Monday to denounce the crackdown which, according to Amnesty International, has claimed the lives of at least 23 children.

In a statement, the Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Unions said the « sit-in » would be a response to the « systematic oppression » of security forces in schools. He named four teenagers he believed killed in the crackdown – Nika Shahkarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh, Abolfazl Adinezadeh and Asra Panahi – and reported the arrest of a large number of teachers.

Activists meanwhile accused Iranian authorities of waging a campaign of mass arrests and travel bans, with the list including athletes, journalists, lawyers and celebrities.

The authorities, who see most of the demonstrations as « riots », minimize their scope and blame them on « enemies » of the Islamic Republic such as the United States.

On Saturday, Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi admitted gatherings in universities but “with fewer and fewer people”. « The riots are in their last days, » he said, quoted by the official Irna agency.

Gatherings abroad

On Friday, Iranian sportswoman Elnaz Rekabi, who according to the London-based BBC Persian and Iran International channels was under house arrest upon her return from South Korea, thanked her supporters on Instagram.

The 33-year-old sportswoman was greeted at Tehran airport on Wednesday by a crowd of supporters. She had participated in a rock climbing competition in Seoul with only a bandana on her head, which was interpreted as a gesture of solidarity with the protests in Iran.

Overseas-based human rights organizations have expressed concern for the fate of the sportswoman who claimed her headscarf slipped off by mistake and issued an « apology ».

Abroad, rallies in solidarity with the protests in Iran also continued with demonstrations in Tokyo and Berlin, where thousands demonstrated.

The international community has condemned the crackdown and several countries as well as the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iranian leaders and entities.

On Saturday, the head of Iranian diplomacy Hossein Amir-Abdollahian accused Washington of instrumentalizing the demonstrations to obtain concessions in the negotiations, launched more than a year ago, to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement.

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