Iranians protest in southeast flashpoint, mark ‘Bloody Friday’

  • Sunni clerics criticized the security forces
  • Unrest in minority areas
  • The General asks the clerics to watch their words, to bring peace

DUBAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Thousands of Iranians protested in the restive southeast on Friday over a Sept. 30 crackdown by security forces known as “Bloody Friday” as the country’s clerical rulers battled continued nationwide unrest.

Security forces unlawfully killed at least 66 people in September after firing on protesters in Zahedan, the capital of flashpoint Sistan-Baluchistan province, Amnesty International said. Officials said dissidents had instigated the clash.

A video posted by the widely followed Twitter account of 1500 Tasveer activists showed thousands of people marching again in Zahedan on Friday. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage.

Another video, reported by 1500 Pictures in the southeastern city of Khash, showed protesters trampling and tearing down a street sign bearing the name of top general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Iraq.

The September 30 shooting had fueled public outrage over allegations of rape by a police officer against a local teenage girl. Officials said that investigation into the matter is underway.

Anti-government protests also erupted that month following the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who was detained by morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code imposed on women.

The nationwide protests have since turned into a popular uprising, involving people from students to doctors, lawyers, workers and athletes, mostly angry at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A group of countries led by Germany and Iceland requested discussions on the “deteriorating” situation in Iran at the United Nations’ top human rights body later this month, a document showed.

Complaints, trials

The government, which blamed Amini’s death on pre-existing medical problems, said Iran’s foreign adversaries, including the United States, had condemned it and vowed to restore order.

It accuses armed separatists of inciting violence and trying to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

Some of the worst unrest is home to minority ethnic groups with long-standing grievances against the state, including Sistan-Baluchistan and the Kurdish regions.

Sistan-Baluchistan, located near Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to a Baloch minority with an estimated population of 2 million. They have faced decades of discrimination and oppression, according to human rights groups. Iran denies this.

The region is one of the poorest in the country and has been a hotbed of tension as Baloch militants have attacked Iranian security forces.

The activist HRANA news agency said 330 protesters had died in the unrest as of Thursday, including 50 minors. Twenty-nine members of the security forces were also killed, while nearly 15,100 people were arrested, it said.

Iran’s hardline judiciary will hold public trials of nearly 1,000 people accused of the unrest in Tehran, a semi-official news agency said on October 31.

They were charged with vandalism, assaulting or killing members of the security forces or setting fire to public property.

Videos, sermons

In a statement, United Nations human rights experts on Friday called on Iranian authorities to stop convicting people who face the death penalty for participation or alleged participation in peaceful protests.

Experts, the Special Representative, expressed concern that women and girls who have been at the forefront of protests could be specifically targeted.

Social media videos purportedly from the town of Sarawan in Sistan-Baluchistan showed protesters dressed in traditional Baloch dress calling for Khamenei’s death.

“Where did the military get the training to shoot people? Today it is clear that people were killed unjustly,” Mollawi Abdolhamid, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric and a longtime critic of Iran’s Shiite leaders, said in his Friday prayers. Sermons in Jahedan “The authorities should condemn this crime and those who ordered the (Bloody Friday) incident and those criminals should be prosecuted,” Abdolhamid added.

It looks like tensions may rise again in Zahedan.

Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour, the ground force commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, told a gathering of Sunni and Shia tribal elders and religious leaders that clerics should be careful what they say, state television reported.

Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva: Writing by Michael Georgi; Editing by Angus McSwan, Jonathan Otis and Andrew Havens

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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