Two more deaths on anniversary of “Bloody Aban” in protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death

Yesterday demonstrations over the killing of the young Kurdish woman coincided with the anniversary of the bloody crackdown in 2019 against people demonstrating against fuel price hikes. Meanwhile, an Iranian court issued a second death penalty against a protester. Even for some reformists, regime change is “neither possible nor desirable”.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Today saw more demonstrations in Iran as activists and ordinary Iranians took to the streets to remember Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in the custody of the morality police.

Yesterday, protests also marked the third anniversary of the violent crackdown against demonstrators who had taken to the streets in 2019 in opposition to huge fuel price hikes.

As usual, Iranian security forces used an iron fist, with at least two people killed and several wounded while the grassroots movement, led by women, continues to demand rights and freedom, and opposes the mandatory wearing of the hijab, which has become a symbol of oppression.

In Tehran the sound of honking cars reverberated in many parts of the city yesterday as people blocked a major roundabout at Sanata Square shouting "freedom, freedom".

Iranians also poured into the streets in other cities, including Bandar Abbas; in Shiraz, women waved the veil over their heads. As evening fell, crowds grew, with people shouting slogans and chanting “death to the dictator”.

“The government forces have directly opened fire in most of the cities where uprisings have taken place, such as Sanandaj, Kamyaran and Kermanshah," Hengaw, a rights group based in Norway, told AFP.

“Two people have been killed by direct fire from government forces in Sanandaj and Kamyaran," the NGO said, adding that it was trying to confirm reports that more protesters were killed.

For his part, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) urged Iranian authorities to free thousands of people arrested during peaceful demonstrations.

“Instead of opening space for dialogue on legitimate grievances, the authorities are responding to unprecedented protests with increasing harshness,” UNCHR spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.

However, such words and appeals seem destined to fall on deaf ears, as the Islamic Republic seems disinclined to use anything but an iron fist. In fact, an Iranian court sentenced a “rioter” to death, the second in three days.

Yet, despite the brutal repression, including the killing of scores of minors, and the use of capital punishment, the popular protest sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death does not seem to be losing steam.

Yesterday, it coincided with the third anniversary of a series of protests that began on 15 November 2019 over fuel price hikes, which turned into a nation-wide movement that was violently put down. Known as “bloody November” or “Bloody Aban” (in the Persian calendar), it led to the death of at least 304 people, but some sources put the death toll at over 1,500.

Undaunted, a large crowd in Tehran is seen in a video chanting “This year is the year of blood, Seyed Ali will be toppled,” a reference to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Elsewhere, workers downed tools and university students boycotted classes in Amini's home province of Kurdistan, in western Iran.

In Sanandaj, also in Kurdistan, protesters were seen burning tyres in a street and chanting anti- government slogans.

As protests continue, some figures once considered reformist are speaking out against them. Former President Mohammad Khatami, who was in power between 1997 to 2005, rejected the idea of regime change, while admitting dissatisfaction in the country.

“The overthrow (of the system) is neither possible nor desirable but the continuation of the current situation leads to social collapse,” Khatami was quoted as saying.