Iran cities strike in solidarity with 'Bloody Friday' dead
Iranians wave their country's national flag at a rally outside the former US embassy in Tehran ATTA KENARE AFP/File

Cities in western Iran went on strike Wednesday in solidarity with mourners marking 40 days since security forces killed dozens in a crackdown on protests in the country's strife-torn southeast, a rights group said.

Security forces opened fire on protests that erupted on September 30 after weekly prayers in Zahedan, capital of the flashpoint province of Sistan-Baluchistan on Iran's border with Pakistan.

It came two weeks after demonstrations broke out across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, following her arrest in Tehran for allegedly flouting the country's strict hijab dress rules for women.

The crackdown on nationwide protests since her death has killed at least 304 people, including 41 children and 24 women, according to a combined toll issued by the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR).

Activists were seen distributing fliers calling for protests in all cities Wednesday for the 40-day mourning ceremony of Zahedan's "Bloody Friday", in a video shared by the 1500tasvir social media channel.

Widespread strikes were underway in the Kurdish western cities of Baneh, Kermanshah, Marivan, Sanandaj and Amini's hometown of Saqez, said the Hengaw rights group.

The work stoppage was being observed "in solidarity with the fatalities in Zahedan on their 40th day death ceremonies", said the Norway-based group, which monitors abuses in Kurdish areas.

Video posted online by activists showed shops shuttered in Saqez and in Zahedan itself.

The trigger for the violence that erupted in Zahedan on September 30 was the alleged rape in custody of a 15-year-old girl by a police commander in the province's port city of Chabahar.

'Mass murder'

Security forces opened fire on men who took to the streets after emerging from mosques following weekly Friday prayers, killing dozens.

"What happened that Friday... in Zahedan, based on international law, is a clear instance of mass murder of civilians," Hengaw said.

"This mass murder must be recognized by international organisations and Western governments," it tweeted.

IHR said at least 92 protesters were killed on September 30 in Zahedan, one of the few Sunni-majority cities in predominantly Shiite Iran.

Since then, at least another 28 people have been killed at protests in Sistan-Baluchistan, it told AFP on Wednesday.

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchistan province is a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and Sunni extremist groups.

Activists have long complained the region has been the victim of discrimination by Iran's Shiite clerical leadership, with disproportionate numbers of Baluch killed in clashes every year and also hanged in executions.

The latest executions were announced on Wednesday.

The judiciary's Mizan Online website said two men, Rashid Baluch and Eshaq Askani, were put to death on Tuesday after being convicted of killing four police officers in 2016.

It said they were members of the Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) "terrorist group".

Death threats

Protests over the death of Amini have shown no signs of abating despite the bloody crackdown and a campaign of mass arrests that has netted artists, journalists and lawyers.

Young women have led the way, removing and burning their head coverings, chanting anti-regime slogans and confronting security forces on the street.

Iran has adopted a range of tactics in a bid to suppress the protests that have evolved into the biggest challenge for the clerical leadership since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Security forces have fired directly on protesters using live ammunition, bird shot, tear gas and even paintballs.

Authorities have also imposed internet restrictions, including blocking access to Instagram and WhatsApp, and have even deployed mounted police on the streets of Tehran in a bid to quell the protests.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was accused this week of issuing death threats against two journalists working for the London-based Persian-language Iran International television channel.

The Saudi-linked channel's owner, Volant Media, said the pair had received formal "warnings of credible threats to their lives" and those of their families, from London's Metropolitan Police.

In response, Iran's Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib warned Britain it would "pay" for what it labelled actions to destabilize the Islamic republic.

Khatib also accused Iran's major regional rival Saudi Arabia of financing media outlets behind the wave of unrest, state news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday.

© 2022 AFP