Sulimaniyah, Oct 8 (AP) – Anti-government demonstrations erupted across Iran on Saturday as the most sustained protests in years against a deeply entrenched theocracy entered their fourth week. At least two people died.
Protesters chanted anti-government slogans and twirled headscarves in repudiation of coercive religious dress codes. In some areas, merchants closed stores in response to a call by activists for a trade strike or to protect their products from damage.
The protests erupted on September 17, following the burial of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in the custody of Iran’s feared morality police. Amini had been arrested for an alleged violation of strict Islamic dress codes for women. Since then, protests have spread across the country and have been met with a fierce crackdown, in which dozens are estimated to have been killed and hundreds arrested.
In the city of Sanandaj, in the Kurdish-majority northern region, a man was shot dead Saturday while driving a car on a major thoroughfare, human rights monitors said. The Kurdistan Human Rights Network based in France and Hengaw
Organization for Human Rights said the man was shot after honking at security forces stationed on the street. Honking has become one of the ways that activists have been expressing their civil disobedience. Video circulating online shows the slain man slumped over the steering wheel, as distraught witnesses scream for help.
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the elite paramilitary force the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, said Kurdistan’s police chief denied reports of live ammunition being used against protesters.
Fars claimed that people on Sanandaj’s Pasdaran Street said the victim was shot from inside the car without giving further details. But the photos of the dead man indicate that he was shot from the left side, which means he was probably not shot from inside the car. Blood can be seen running down the inside of the driver’s side door.
A second protester was killed after security forces fired shots to disperse the crowd in the city and 10 protesters were injured, human rights monitors said.
A general strike was observed on the main streets of the city amid a heavy security presence and protesters burned tires in some areas. Patrols deterred mass gatherings in Sanandaj, but isolated protests continued in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods.
Demonstrations were also reported in the capital Tehran on Saturday, including small ones near Sharif University of Technology, one of Iran’s main centers of learning and the scene of a violent government crackdown last weekend. Authorities have closed the campus until further notice.
Images on social media showed that there were also protests in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
Other protests broke out at Azad University in northern Tehran, in other neighborhoods of the capital and in the city’s bazaar. Many stores closed in the center of Tehran and near Tehran University.
President Ebrahim Raisi in a meeting with students from Tehran’s all-female Al-Zahra University again alleged that foreign enemies were responsible for fomenting the protests. He has made the claim without giving details or providing any proof.
“The enemy thought that he can pursue his wishes in the universities without knowing that our students and teachers are aware and will not allow the vain plans of the enemies to be realized,” he said.