Paris — Iranians staged fresh protests Thursday, defying a crackdown by authorities, as a rights group said an 18-year-old was the latest teenager killed in clashes in the northwest. Iranfor more than six weeks – sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by the notorious morality police – in a movement that poses the biggest challenge to the country’s rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The clerical leadership, led by 83-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded with a crackdown that, in addition to killing dozens, has seen 1,000 people charged so far in Iran’s opaque judicial system. Activists say many of the prisoners could face the death penalty.
As the protest movement shows no signs of abating despite the authorities’ violent response to it, problems for the Iranian regime have been compounded by the tradition of holding a “chehelom” mourning ceremony 40 days after a death. Every time a protester is killed, that incident more than a month later can fuel new calls for protests.
Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported that large numbers attended the 40-day ceremony for Hadis Najafi in the city of Karaj, outside Tehran, on Thursday. The 22-year-old woman was killed by security forces in September, activists say.
The IHR said police had blocked off the highway leading to the cemetery to prevent even greater numbers.
“This is the year of blood, Seyed Ali (Khamenei) will be overthrown,” video posted on social media shows them shouting.
Another teenager was reportedly killed
Kurdish rights group Hengaw said a series of protests took place on Wednesday in the Kurdish areas of northwestern Iran where Amini hails from, including the city of Sanandaj, which has become a major flashpoint for protests.
Hengaw said Momen Zandkarimi, 18, from Sanandaj, was killed by direct fire from Iranian security forces.
Due to pressure from security services, who feared his funeral could turn into another protest, his body was moved to another village for burial, the organization said.
A bloody repression
According to the updated death toll released by the IHR on Wednesday, “at least 277 people have been killed by security forces in the nationwide protests” sparked by Amini’s death since they began, including 40 under the age of 18. Thousands have been arrested across the country, rights activists say, while Iran’s judiciary has said 1,000 people have already been charged over what it describes as “riots”.
The trial of five men charged over the protests on crimes that could carry the death penalty began on Saturday in Tehran.
“The charges and sentences have no legal force and their sole purpose is to perpetrate more violence and create social fear,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, condemning the “show trials”.
Hadi Ghaemi, head of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, said that if Iranian courts handed down death sentences, it would be a “blatant attempt to terrorize the Iranian people into silence.”
Activists have condemned a video released by Iranian state media of Toomaj Salehi, a prominent rapper arrested over the weekend after supporting protests, in which a blindfolded man claiming to be Salehi admits he made a “mistake” as a forced confession. .
Freedom of expression group Article 19 said it was “extremely disturbed Iran’s state media is sharing forced confessions” with the subject “under clear pressure”.
He is currently being held under the control of secret service agents in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, his uncle Iqbal Iqbali said according to the Iran Wire news website.
Journalists were arrested
At least 51 journalists have been detained in the crackdown on protests, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Fourteen were confirmed to have been released on bail.
Journalist Yaghma Fashkhami has become the latest prominent figure to be arrested, his wife Mona Moafi wrote on Twitter.
There is also growing concern for the welfare of Wall Street Journal contributor and freedom of expression campaigner Hassan Ronaghi, who was arrested in September and his family says is on hunger strike with two broken legs in custody.
On Wednesday, US Vice President Kamala Harris hailed the “bravery” of the women’s protests as she said Washington would work to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
“Iran has demonstrated through its denial of women’s rights and violent repression of its people that it is unfit to serve on this committee,” Harris said.