The hands of the Iranian regime continue to be even more soaked in the blood of people protesting for more freedoms with the death toll hitting 233 as of Friday evening, according to numbers provided by HRANA – an independent Iranian human rights group based abroad.
The watchdog said that as many as 32 children were among the dead. Earlier, Amnesty International, which had called the handling of the unrest an “unrelenting brutal crackdown” that included an “all-out attack on child protesters”, reported 23 children dead.
HRANA went on to say that authorities have arrested 7,704 protesters, including 170 university students. In the past four weeks, 428 street and university protest gatherings have taken place in 112 cities and towns.
Protests resume also over sectarian differences
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody was the last straw for Iranians from various social milieus. Arrested in Teheran on September 13 in Teheran by the Iranian morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s stringent, allegedly religion-driven, clothing rules that impose hijab- or headscarf-wearing on women.
Reports transpired suggesting that officers beat her head with a baton. Although the police claimed she died of a heart attack, the footage that authorities released showing her collapse in a police station did not placate the population, quite the opposite.
Enraged Iranians from across nearly the entire social spectrum took to the streets to protest with demands ranging from more freedoms to an overthrow of the regime.
The latest unfoldment of the protests saw people Zahedan walk out on Friday to decry the regime and its heavy-handed handling of the situation that killed dozens in the city, Iran International wrote.
In Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province in the southeast near Pakistan, the demonstrations present an additional sectarian characteristic, given an ethnic majority inhabiting the city. The Baluchs are predominantly Sunni, which puts them at odds with the mostly-Shiite clerical regime in Tehran.
The regime did not stop from firing at Baluch protesters on September 30 when nationwide demonstrations commenced. Around 60 citizens were killed in Zahedan on that day, with two dozen more in the following days, Iran International wrote.
Also on Friday, the ethnic Arab population of the oil-rich Khuzestan province in the southwest came out in protest. The government preemptively disrupted Internet access making it impossible to share videos but, according to Iran International, fierce protests ensued on Friday evening in Ahvaz, the provincial capital, with security forces opening fire at the crowd.
Schoolgirls targeted by regime security services
On Thursday, Iranian undercover agents raided a girls’ high school in Ardabil, northwest of Iran and an Azari speaking city injuring 10 students and detaining seven others, Iran International wrote. A schoolgirl died of internal bleeding amidst the raid, the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association reported. Allegedly, the government was trying to force the schoolgirls into participation in a pro-regime rally.
Reportedly, pupils have also been protesting forced hijab-wearing following Mahsa Amini’s potential killing. The number of children at school age who have been arrested since the outbreak of the nationwide demonstrations and sent to what the government dubs “psychological” rehabilitation centres remains unknown.
A call to protest on Saturday
In the wake of the reported Ardebil clampdown on schoolgirls, an anonymous announcement was made in Tabriz calling on citizens to join nationwide protests on Saturday, warning government forces not to raise their fists against the people.
Another call came from a group of anonymous activists calling themselves the Tehran Youth who encouraged nationwide protests, also on Saturday (October 15).
To cool down Iranians’ ire, the government organised a gathering of supporters in Tehran on Friday, which coincided with Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. Iran International reported that although several thousand people took part, the crowd was smaller than the one seen in similar past rallies.
In a bid to placate the demonstrators, Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei, in an Islamic conference organized by Tehran, spoke about his vision of Muslim unity, without directly attacking the protests that have rocked Iran for four weeks.
But despite the Ayatollah’s mellow take on the developments, his iron fist was preparing to crack down on the demonstrations scheduled for Saturday. As reported by Iran International, which obtained “the copy of a message sent to all retired members of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and all those affiliated with it”, the government sought to beef up its ranks. However, the media outlet also wrote that “many have refused to show up at 8:00 am local time at Tehran’s IRGC headquarters.” It is being suggested that the failure to mobilise retired officers would incapacitate the regime to disperse the protests.
“Stunned” is how US President Joe Biden described his reaction to the mass protests in Iran. He said that the US stood with that country’s “brave women”.
“I want you to know that we stand with the citizens, the brave women of Iran,” President Biden said at a college in Irvine, California, during an address to a group of protesters holding “Free Iran”.
“It stunned me what it awakened in Iran. It awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted for a long, long time,” he added.
“Women all over the world are being persecuted in various ways, but they should be able to wear in God’s name what they want to wear,” the president said. Iran “has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising their fundamental rights”.
“I want to thank you all for speaking out.”