Riot police deployed as thousands gather to mark 40 days since Mahsa Amini's death
Iranian security forces confronted mourners gathering in Mahsa Amini’s hometown to mark 40 days since the 22-year-old’s death in custody, according to a human rights group.
Videos widely shared on social media showed thousands of people marching towards Amini’s grave at Aichi cemetery in Saqqez, a city in the Kurdish province of Iran, in cars, motorbikes, and on foot.
Several of the female protesters were seen without headscarves, which are mandatory in Iran.
Amini died on 16 September, days after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for “inappropriate hijab”.
Her death sparked widespread anti-government protests across all of Iran, which are now entering the seventh week.
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Hengaw, a Norway-based rights group that monitors rights abuses in Iran’s Kurdish region, tweeted that authorities had shot tear gas and opened fire on people gathered in Saqez’s Zindan square on Wednesday.
Mourners chanted popular slogans “woman, wife, freedom” and “death to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei”, according to Reuters.
One witness said that the cemetery was filled with riot police and volunteers from the Basij paramilitary group.
"They tried to stop us from entering the cemetery ... but I managed to get in,” another told Reuters.
Videos on social media appeared to suggest that security forces had blocked roads leading to the city to prevent mourners from other cities from gathering at the grave.
Kurdistan governor Zarei Kusha denied that the state had imposed any such limitations, adding that the Amini family had decided “not to hold a gathering”, according to state media.
Football stars join protest
In Islamic tradition, and particularly in Iran, memorial gatherings take place to commemorate 40 days after a person’s death.
According to Hengaw, Iranian football stars Ali Daei and Hamed Lak had travelled to Saqez to take part in the 40-day mourning but were reportedly put under “strict security oversight” from intelligence agencies from their hotel.
Daei is one Iran’s greatest players, and was last year overtaken by Cristiano Ronaldo as the leading goalscorer in men’s international football. Several footballers and celebrities, including ‘Iran’s Maradona’ Ali Karimi have publicly backed the protests.
Hengaw said strikes were underway in several Kurdish towns and cities including Divandarreh, Marivan, Kamyaran, and Sanandaj, as well as Javanrud and Ravansar in the western province of Kermanshah.
141 demonstrators have been killed since security forces cracked down on this recent wave of protests, according to Norway-based Iran Human Rights on Tuesday.
The protests have turned into one of the boldest challenges to the Iranian government since the 1979 revolution.
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