Iran activists call for more protests as demonstrations enter fifth week

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By AFP
A portrait of Mahsa Amini is held during a rally in Washington calling for regime change in Iran.
A portrait of Mahsa Amini is held during a rally in Washington calling for regime change in Iran.   -   Copyright  AP/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Iranian activists called for mass demonstrations on Saturday, as the protest movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini entered its fifth week, despite a deadly crackdown.

The outrage over the death of the 22-year-old has led to the biggest wave of demonstrations in Iran since 2019.

At least 108 people have been killed since 16 September, according to Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR). At least 23 children between the ages of 11 and 17 have also died.

Despite authorities blocking access to popular apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp, activists issued an online call for mass protests on Saturday under the slogan "The beginning of the end!" aimed at the regime.

They encouraged young people and the Iranian population to demonstrate in places where security forces are not present and chant "Death to the dictator," referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Meanwhile, "anti-riot" rallies are planned for Saturday night in "all mosques in the country...to counter the plots of Iran's enemies," according to a statement from the Islamic Development Coordinating Council responsible for organizing official demonstrations.

World leaders praise protesters, challenge Tehran's 'repression'

The protest movement has led to solidarity rallies abroad as well as Western sanctions targeting Iranian officials and institutions accused of involvement in the crackdown.

On Friday, Tehran condemned comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who expressed his "admiration" for the "women (and) young people" protesting, and said that France "condemns the repression" by the Iranian regime.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with activists from Iran on Friday and praised the "courage" of the protesters "as women and young people continue to stand up for the basic rights the Iranian regime continues to deny them."

Analysts say the multi-faceted nature of the anti-government protests, particularly of young people gathering in small groups in specific neighbourhoods to avoid detection, makes it difficult for law enforcement to try to stop them.

In an open letter published on its front page on Thursday, the reformist newspaper Etemad called on Iran's top security official to stop arrests made under "sometimes spurious pretexts."

In a rare move, the Tehran police announced on Friday that it would investigate charges of harassment against one of its officers. The latter was filmed while he appeared to be touching a demonstrator.