PARIS: Funerals for young Iranians, including a small boy, who families say were killed in a state crackdown, sparked a fresh wave of anti-government protests across the country on Friday.
Iran’s leadership under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is facing its biggest challenge in two months of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
The authorities have responded with a crackdown that a human rights group says has left 342 people dead, six protesters already sentenced to death and thousands more arrested.
The turbulence comes with intense attention on the response of Iran’s team at the football World Cup in Qatar, which is due to play its first match against England on Monday.
Scores flocked to the south-western city of Izeh for the funeral of Kian Pirfalak, aged nine, according to pictures published by Iran’s ISNA news agency.
His mother told the funeral ceremony that Kian was shot on Wednesday by the security forces, although Iranian officials have insisted he was killed in a “terrorist” attack.
“Hear it from me myself on how the shooting happened, so they can’t say it was by terrorists, because they’re lying,” his mother told the funeral, according to a video posted by the 1500tasvir monitor.
“Maybe they thought we wanted to shoot or something and they peppered the car with bullets... Plainclothes forces shot my child. That is it.”
Ridiculing the official version of events, the protesters chanted: “Basij, Sepah — you are our ISIS!” according to a video posted by Norway-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR).
The Basij is a pro-government paramilitary force and Sepah is another name for Revolutionary Guards. The ISIS is an acronym for the militant Islamic State (IS) group.
“Death to Khamenei”, they shouted in another video posted by 1500tasvir. State television said seven people had been buried, including a nine-year-old boy, adding they had been killed by “terrorists” on motorbikes.
“Kian Pirfalak, nine, and Sepehr Maghsoudi, 14, are among at least 56 children killed by Iranian forces working to crush the 2022 revolution,” said Hadi Ghaemi, director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.
The nationwide protests — which have cut across ethnicities and social classes — were initially fuelled by anger over the obligatory headscarf for women, but have turned into a movement calling for an end to the Ayatollah-led government itself.
According to IHR, at least 342
people, including 43 children and 26 women, have been killed by security forces in the crackdown on the protests. The official IRNA news agency said two members of the security forces had been killed in Bukan, western Iran, on Thursday while the Tasnim agency said a member of the Revolutionary Guards was killed in Sahne, Kermanshah province, on Friday.
The IHR’s figures include 123 people killed in Sistan- Baluchestan province where the protests had a distinct initial spark, but have fed into the nationwide anger.
Mainly Sunni Sistan-Baluchestan is Iran’s poorest region whose ethnic Baluch inhabitants feel discriminated against by the Tehran elite.
New protests took place in the main city of Zahedan, where rights groups say “a large number” of people were killed by security forces on Sept 30.
In Doha, Iran’s captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh insisted the side was concentrating on World Cup football and declined to be drawn on how it would mark goals.
“Every single player has a different celebration and you ask about national anthem and that’s something that also has to be decided in the team which we already talked about,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2022