PARIS: Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan, three weeks after over 90 people were reportedly killed in “Bloody Friday” protests.
“Death to the dictator”, the protesters, mostly young men, chanted on Friday in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outside a police station, in footage widely shared on social media.
According to Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based group, Iranian forces had killed 93 people who had gathered at the same location on September 30.
Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, is one of the few Sunni-majority cities in Iran.
“Death to Khamenei” and “Unity, unity”, the protesters shouted after Friday prayers in a video shared by Radio Farda, a US-funded station.
The slogans echoed those chanted in nationwide protests over Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman of Kurdish origin who died in custody on Sept 16.
The police chief of Sistan-Baluchestan, Ahmad Taheri, said 57 “rioters” were arrested during Friday’s protests.
A news agency said “thugs and rioters” had gathered after Friday prayers at Makki Mosque — headed by influential Sunni cleric Molavi Abdol Hamid.
It said they “shouted slogans and threw rocks at shops, cars and banks”, noting that “leaders and instigators” had been identified and investigations were underway.
Amini, 22, died three days after falling into a coma following her arrest in Tehran by the morality police for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.
Two weeks later, violence erupted in Zahedan during protests that were triggered by anger over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander in the region.
Climber under ‘house arrest’
A human rights group called on Friday for Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi to be protected after she was reportedly placed under house arrest for competing abroad without a hijab. Rekabi competed in South Korea last week without wearing a headscarf.
Citing an “informed source”, BBC Persian said Rekabi had been put under pressure to make a “forced confession” after her return on Wednesday from the Asian Championships in sports climbing in Seoul.
The 33-year-old was given a hero’s welcome on her return to Tehran by supporters who raucously applauded her action, but the source told BBC Persian that she did not go home after arriving at the airport.
“She was held at the national Olympics academy under the watch of plainclothes officers until she met the minister,” it said, referring to Sports Minister Hamid Sajjadi.
Rekabi had been threatened with the seizure of 100 million rials ($312,000) worth of her family’s property unless she made the “forced confession”, the source was quoted as saying. On Friday, a New York-based human rights group called on the International Federation of Sport Climbing to do more to protect her.
The federation “should engage with rights organisations to protect pro climber #ElnazRekabi and all Iranian athletes”, the Center for Human Rights in Iran said on Twitter.
“Don’t take the government in Iran’s word at face value — it has a documented history of detaining, maiming and killing those who oppose it.”
Fears had been raised about the fate of Rekabi after friends had reportedly been unable to contact her following the end of her participation in the competition in Seoul.
News website Iran Wire said the head of Iran’s climbing federation had “tricked” her into entering the Iranian embassy in Seoul, promising her safe passage to Iran if she handed over her phone and passport.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2022