- Tens of thousands demonstrate in Berlin to support Iran protests
- Crowd chanting ‘Death to Khamenei’ at Berlin rally
- Protests enter sixth week despite deadly crackdown
- Revolutionary Guards warn a cleric of “stirring up” in the southeast of the country
BERLIN/DUBAI (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Berlin on Saturday to show support for protesters in Iran as unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody entered its sixth week despite a bloody state crackdown.
The protests posed one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s religious leadership since the 1979 revolution, even if they did not appear close to toppling a government that deployed its powerful security apparatus to quell the unrest.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died in morality police custody after being arrested for his “improper dress”. Protests erupted at her funeral on September 17 in the Kurdish town of Saqqaz before spreading across Iran. Rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed in the crackdown.
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A prominent role was played by the woman, waving and burning the veil. The deaths of several teenage girls who were killed during the protests have reportedly sparked further outrage.
In Berlin, police estimated that 80,000 people took part in the rally, with demonstrators waving Iranian flags and holding banners reading “Woman, Life, Freedom.” Organizers said the Iranians traveled from the United States, Canada and all over the European Union.
“From Zahedan to Tehran, I sacrifice my life for Iran,” human rights activist Fariba Baloch said after giving a speech at the Berlin rally, referring to the Iranian cities that have swept the protests. The crowd responded with “Death to Khamenei,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Anti-government activists said the Berlin rally was the largest-ever demonstration against the Islamic Republic by Iranians abroad.
“I feel very good because we are here to say ‘we are with you with all Iranians’,” said one protester, who gave her name as Maro. “I am the sound of Mahsa Amini.”
Videos posted on social media – which Reuters could not independently verify – showed continuing protests in Iran in several cities, including Tehran, northeastern Mashhad, northwest Mahabad, Dezful in the southwest, and a number of universities across the country.
Videos showed protesters chanting in the Sadqieh district of western Tehran and setting fire to the streets of the capital’s Lah-Hazar district. The last cars in Mashhad were shown sounding their horns as demonstrators chanted “Death to the dictator”.
Videos on social media purportedly from Dezful showed young men chanting “Freedom, freedom, freedom” as they confronted police in the oil-rich, Arab-majority Khuzestan province on the Iraqi border.
Khamenei warned that no one should dare to believe in his ability to uproot the Islamic Republic, accusing its opponents of fomenting unrest. State television reported the killing of at least 26 members of the security forces.
Some of the most violent unrest occurred in ethnic minority areas, with longstanding grievances against the state. These include Sistan-Baluchestan Province in the southeast and its capital, Zahedan.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Saturday accused a prominent Sunni cleric of inciting against the Islamic Republic and warned that it could cost him dearly after blaming officials, including Khamenei, for the killing of dozens of people in Zahedan last month.
Amnesty International said that security forces had killed No less than 66 people In a campaign after Friday prayers in Zahedan, on September 30.
Mawlawi Abdul Hamid, a prominent Sunni cleric in Zahid, said during Friday sermons that officials including Khamenei, the head of the Shiite-dominated country, are “responsible before God” for the September 30 killings. He described the killing as a massacre, saying that bullets were fired at the heads and chests.
A brief statement on the IRGC’s official Sepah News website read: “Syed Abdul Hamid encouraging and inciting youth against the holy Islamic Republic of Iran may cost you dearly! This is the last warning!”
State media said at the time of the September 30 violence that “unidentified gunmen” opened fire on a police station, prompting the security forces to return fire.
The Revolutionary Guards said five members of its forces and volunteers from the Basij militia were killed during the September 30 violence. The authorities blamed a Baluchi militant group. Neither this group nor any other faction has claimed any role.
The protests have been fueled by allegations that a police officer raped a teenage girl. Officials said the case is under investigation.
Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Majid Mir Ahmadi said that after protests erupted again in Zahedan on Friday, calm has returned to calm, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
He said 150 “thugs attacked public property and even those shops for Sunnis.”
Rights groups say the government has long discriminated against ethnic minorities, including Kurds.
The state denies accusations of discrimination.
In Iran’s Kurdish region on Saturday, videos posted online showed shopkeepers on strike in several cities in the northwestern Kurdish region, including Sanandaj, Saqez, and Bokan.
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Newsroom coverage in Dubai, Victoria, Al-Darsi, Leon Malherbe and Oliver Denzer in Berlin; writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alex Richardson and Christina Fincher
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.