Anti-government demonstrations erupted in several places across Iran on Saturday, as the most sustained protests in years against a deeply entrenched theocracy entered their fourth week. At least two people were killed.
Protesters chanted against the government and twirled headscarves in defiance of mandatory religious dress codes. In some areas, traders closed shops in response to the activists’ call for a strike or to protect their goods from damage.
The protests began on September 17, after the funeral of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish girl who had died while being held in custody by the morality police. She was arrested for an alleged violation of strict Islamic dress codes for women. Since then, protests have spread across the country and have been harshly met by the authorities. It is estimated that dozens of people have been killed and hundreds more arrested.
In the city of Sanandaj in the northern Kurdish-majority region, one person was shot dead on Saturday while driving on a main road, human rights monitors said. The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network and Hengaw Human Rights Organization said the man was shot after blowing his horn while security forces were deployed in the streets. Blowing horns has become one of the ways activists have expressed civil disobedience. Video circulating online shows the slain man at the wheel as distraught witnesses scream for help.
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to support the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps paramilitary force, said Kurdistan’s police chief dismissed reports of direct gunfire against protesters.
Fars news agency claimed that people on Pasdaran Street, Sanandaj city, said the victim was shot from inside the car, without giving further details. But photos of the dead man show he was shot from the left side, meaning he likely wasn’t shot from inside the car. Blood can be seen running from the inside of the driver’s side door.
A second protester was killed after security forces opened fire to disperse crowds in the city and 10 protesters were wounded, human rights monitors said.
A general strike was seen on the main streets of the city amid heavy security presence and protesters burnt tires in some areas. Patrols have prevented mass gatherings in Sanandaj, but isolated protests have continued in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods.
Demonstrations were also reported in the capital Tehran on Saturday, including smaller gatherings near Sharif University of Technology, one of Iran’s main centers of education and the scene of a violent crackdown by the government last weekend. The authorities have closed the campus until further notice./VOA
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