Anti-govt protests rock Tehran, other Iranian cities

Published: Fri 17 Feb 2023, 9:27 PM

Rallies held in various cities to mark 40 days since the execution of two protesters

By Reuters

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People take part in a protest in Zahedan, Iran, in this screen grab taken from a social media video released on Friday. — Reuters
People take part in a protest in Zahedan, Iran, in this screen grab taken from a social media video released on Friday. — Reuters

Protests rocked Iran again overnight Thursday after seeming to have dwindled in recent weeks, with marchers calling for the overthrow of the government online video posts purportedly showed on Friday.

The marches in numerous cities including Tehran that began on Thursday evening and went on into the night marked 40 days since the execution of two protesters last month.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini were hanged on January 8. Two others were executed in December.

The protests that have swept across Iran began last September after the death in custody of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini for flouting the hijab policy, which requires women to entirely cover their hair and bodies.

Videos on Friday showed demonstrations in several neighbourhoods in Tehran as well as in the cities of Karaj, Isfahan, Qazvin, Rasht, Arak, Mashhad, Sanandaj, Qorveh, and Izeh in Khuzestan province.

Reuters was able to confirm three of the videos on the protests in Zahedan and one of those in Tehran.

An online video purportedly from Mashhad in the northeast showed protesters chanting: "My martyred brother, we shall avenge your blood."

Other videos showed large protests on Friday in Zahedan, capital of southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, home to Iran's Balochi minority.

Meanwhile, the judiciary said a court had dismissed and jailed a police commander accused of raping a girl. The incident fuelled anger ahead of protests on September 30 which faced a crackdown in Zahedan in which at least 66 people were killed, according to Amnesty International.

The long wave of unrest has posed one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. Openly defying the hijab rules, women have waved and burned their scarves or cut their hair.

While the unrest appeared to have tapered off in recent weeks, probably because of the executions or the crackdown, acts of civil disobedience have continued.

Nightly anti-government chants reverberate across Tehran and other cities. Youths spray graffiti at night denouncing the republic or burn pro-government billboards or signs on main highways. Unveiled women appear in the streets, malls, shops and restaurants despite warnings from officials.

Many of the women among the dozens of recently released prisoners have posed unveiled in front of cameras.

Authorities have not backed down on the compulsory hijab policy, a pillar of the Islamic Republic.

In recent weeks Iranian media have reported closures of several businesses, restaurants and cafes for failure to observe the hijab rules.

Last week, Iranian officials called on trade unions for stricter enforcement of hijab regulations in Tehran’s stores and businesses.

"Improperly" veiled female students were warned last month they would be barred from entering Tehran University, while local media reported that about 50 students were prevented from entering Urmia University in the northwest for flouting the hijab rules.

Rights activists say more than 500 protesters have been killed since September, including 71 minors. Nearly 20,000 have been detained. At least four people have been hanged, according to the judiciary.

Karami, a 22-year-old karate champion, and Hosseini were convicted of killing a member of the Basij paramilitary force militia.

Amnesty International said the court that convicted Karami relied on forced confessions. Hosseini's lawyer said his client had been tortured.

Two others were executed on December 8 and 12 respectively.

Five women activists released on Thursday said they owed their freedom to the solidarity of "the freedom-loving people and youths of Iran", according to social media posts.

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