New Iran protests erupt in universities and Kurdish region

Crackdown continues after death of Mahsa Amini brought on anti-regime demonstrations

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the crowd during an annual demonstration in front of the former US embassy in Tehran. AP
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New protests erupted in Iran on Sunday at universities and in the largely Kurdish north-west, keeping a seven-week anti-regime movement going despite a fierce crackdown.

The protests, sparked in mid-September by the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for breaching strict dress rules for women, have evolved into the biggest challenge for the leadership since the 1979 revolution.

The protests have been nationwide, unlike demonstrations in November 2019, spreading across social classes, universities, the streets and even schools, showing no sign of letting up.

The Hengaw rights group in Norway said security forces opened fire on Sunday at a protest in Marivan, a town in Kurdistan province, wounding 35 people.

It was not immediately possible to verify the toll.

The latest protest was sparked by the death in Tehran of a Kurdish student from Marivan, Nasrin Ghadri, who died on Saturday after being beaten over the head by police, Hengaw said.

Iranian authorities have not yet commented on the cause of her death.

Hengaw said Ghadri was buried at dawn without a funeral ceremony on the insistence of the authorities, who feared the event could become a protest flashpoint.

Images posted on social media showed protesters threw stones at the official administration building and took down and burnt the Iranian flag.

Residents, including women without headscarves, marched through the streets.

Authorities sent reinforcements to the area and the sound of gunfire echoed around the city as night fell, Hengaw said.

Kurdish-populated regions have been the crucible of protests since the death of Amini, a Kurd from the town of Saqez in Kurdistan province.

Universities have also emerged as major protest centres. Iran Human Rights, an organisation in Norway, said students at Sharif University in Tehran were staging sit-ins Sunday in support of arrested colleagues.

Students at the university in Babol, in northern Iran, removed gender segregation barriers that by law were put up in their cafeteria, the IHR said.

The protests have been sustained by myriad different tactics, with observers noting a trend of young people tipping off clerics' turbans in the streets.

IHR said on Saturday that at least 186 people have been killed in the crackdown on the Amini protests, up by 10 from Wednesday.

It said another 118 people had lost their lives in protests since September 30 in Sistan-Baluchistan, a mainly Sunni province in the south-east, presenting a further major headache for the regime.

IHR said security troops killed at least 16 people using live rounds when protests erupted after prayers on Friday in the town of Khash in Sistan-Baluchistan.

The protests were fanned by fury over the restrictive dress rules for women, over which Amini had been arrested.

But they have now become a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the fall of the shah in 1979.

Meanwhile Sunnis in Sistan-Baluchistan — where the alleged rape of a girl in police custody was the spark for protests — have long felt discriminated against by the nation's Shiite leadership.

IHR also warned that "dozens" of arrested protesters had been charged with purported crimes for which they could be sentenced to death, up from only a handful earlier reported.

On Sunday, by far most of Iran's legislators — 227 out of 290 — urged the judiciary to apply "an eye for an eye" justice at the protests, which authorities describe as "riots".

The continuing crackdown has included the arrests of prominent activists, journalists and artists, such as rapper Toomaj Salehi.

There is also growing concern about the well-being of The Wall Street Journal's contributor and freedom of expression campaigner Hossein Ronaghi, who was arrested in September and whose family says is on hunger strike in Evin prison.

In a new blow, his father Ahmad is now in intensive care after a heart attack while conducting a vigil outside Evin, Ronaghi's brother Hassan wrote on Twitter.

Prominent dissident Majid Tavakoli, also jailed at the start of the crackdown, was beaten in Evin, his family wrote on social media.

Updated: November 07, 2022, 6:19 AM
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