PARIS: Hundreds of mourners poured onto the streets of an Iranian city on Thursday, defying a lethal crackdown on protests over Mahsa Amini’s death that shows signs of turning even bloodier. Iran’s foreign minister and media raised the spectre of civil war.

This week’s protests coincide with the third anniversary of “Bloody Aban” — or Bloody November — when hundreds were killed in a crackdown on street violence that erupted over a shock overnight decision to hike fuel prices.

Security forces on Thursday killed one protester in Bukan and two in Sanandaj, where mourners were paying tribute to “four victims of the popular resistance” 40 days after they were slain, the Oslo-based Hengaw rights group said.

The state news agency IRNA later confirmed that police colonel Hassan Youssefi was killed after being stabbed repeatedly in Sanandaj, about 200 kilometres west of the capital Tehran. People had thronged the streets even as the sound of gunfire was heard in a video published by Hengaw.

Two Basij members stabbed to death in Mashhad, two shot dead in Isfahan

IRNA said “rioters” had damaged and burned public property in Bukan, including setting fire to the municipality building. It added that police later dispersed them.

Mashhad riots

Separately, two Basij members were stabbed to death and three others injured as they sought to intervene to prevent “rioters” from threatening shopkeepers in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the news agency said.

“Death to the dictator,” protesters chanted in another online video as they marched down a street in Sanandaj filled with bonfires, directing their fury at Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The tradition in Iran of holding a “chehelom” mourning ceremony 40 days after a death has fuelled the demonstrations that have become the regime’s biggest challenge from the street in decades.

Elsewhere, Hengaw accused the security forces of killing at least 10 people within a 24-hour period up until late Wednesday at protests in several cities.

Isfahan killings

In a separate attack hours later in Iran’s third city Isfahan, two assailants on a motorcycle shot dead two members of the Basij paramilitary force and wounded another two, Fars news agency said.

IRNA later reported a police colonel who was injured Wednesday in Isfahan died of his wounds on Thursday in hospital.

Another police colonel was stabbed to death in Sanandaj, IRNA said.

In the southwestern city of Izeh, “a terrorist group took advantage of a gathering of protesters” to shoot dead seven people — including a 45-year-old woman, two children aged nine and 13, IRNA said. Three police officers and two Basij members were wounded, a security official told state TV.

But a family member of the nine-year-old boy killed on Wednesday, identified as Kian Pirfalak, accused security forces of carrying out the attack. The accusation came in a tweet shared by US-funded Radio Farda.

‘Civil war’

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abollahian accused Israel and its allies of plotting a “civil war in” the Islamic republic.

But, he tweeted, they “must know that Iran is not Libya or Sudan” and that the “wisdom of our people has thwarted their plan”.

Fars news agency, which is close to the authorities, said the attacks show “that those who want to dismantle the country have entered into the armed action phase”.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2022

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