December 8, 2023

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At least 15 people were killed in an attack on a Shiite shrine in Iran, the official Iranian news agency reported

At least 15 people were killed in an attack on a Shiite shrine in Iran, the official Iranian news agency reported
  • Victims, women and children – Tasnim News Agency
  • Agency close to a major security agency says the attackers are not Iranian
  • Demonstrators commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini in custody

DUBAI (Reuters) – At least 15 people were killed in an attack on a Shiite shrine in the Iranian city of Shiraz on Wednesday, the official IRNA news agency said, while security forces elsewhere clashed with protesters marking its 40th anniversary. The death of Mahsa Amini.

Early reports of the attack gave mixed accounts. The local police chief said only one attacker was arrested, while news agencies said three people were involved.

IRNA described them as “takfiri terrorists,” a designation used by officials in Shiite-majority Iran to refer to hard-line Sunni Islamist groups. Nournews, which is affiliated with Iran’s top security apparatus, said they were not Iranian citizens.

The IRNA news agency quoted witnesses as saying that the attackers were in a car and shot pilgrims and employees at the entrance to the Shah Garg mausoleum. The police arrested two of the three “terrorists” and are looking for the third.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency said several women and children were among the dead.

The attack occurred on the same day that Iranian security forces opened fire on mourners who had gathered in the Kurdish town of Saqqaz inhabited by Amini, according to a witness.

“The riot police opened fire on mourners who had gathered at the cemetery for the memorial ceremonies of Al-Mahsa,” the witness said. “Dozens were arrested.” It was not possible to obtain a comment from the Iranian authorities.

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The semi-official Iranian Students News Agency said that about ten thousand people gathered in the cemetery, adding that the internet was cut off after clashes between security forces and people there.

Videos on social media showed thousands of Iranians marching towards the cemetery where Amini was buried, despite the heavy presence of riot police. Activists had called for nationwide protests to mark the 40th day since her death after she was detained for “improper clothing”.

The demonstrations sparked by the death of the 22-year-old in Iranian moral police custody on September 16 have become one of the boldest challenges facing the religious leadership since the 1979 revolution.

A large number of Iranians took to the streets, some of them called for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Men and women gathered around Amini’s grave in Aichi cemetery in Saqqaz, chanting ‘Woman, life, freedom,’” an eyewitness said. Another witness in Saqez said the cemetery was filled with members of the volunteer Basij militia and riot police.

“But people from all over the Kurdistan region are here. We are all aware of Mahsa’s death together,” he added.

Fearing that the 40th anniversary of Amini’s death would lead to more violent protests, the police warned her family against holding a memorial procession or else “their son will be arrested,” rights groups said.

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But the governor of Kurdistan, Zari Kosha, denied that there are restrictions on holding the mass, adding that the family’s decision is not to hold any gathering, according to official media.

Videos on social media showed that security forces blocked roads to Saqqaz to prevent people from other cities from gathering at the cemetery. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.

Iranian official media reported that the authorities closed today, Wednesday, all schools and universities in the Kurdistan region “due to the flu wave.”

The Kurdish rights group Henjao said at least 50 people were injured on Wednesday in the cities of Sanandaj, Mirvan, Saqez, Devandareh, Bokan and Mahabad in northwest Iran, where many Iranian Kurds live. She added that the security forces fired their rifles in two cities.

Student protests

Videos on social media showed crowds crowding the streets of many cities, markets in Tehran and some other cities closed, and people chanting “Death to Khamenei.”

1500tasvir, a Twitter account focused on Iran’s protests with 280,000 followers, reported a “brutal crackdown” on protesters in multiple locations in Tehran, including a gathering at the Tehran Doctors Syndicate.

A video clip on the account showed students at Tehran University fleeing the scene when an explosion was heard. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the footage.

A former pro-reform Iranian official said the spread of the protests appeared to have taken the authorities by surprise and contradicted the establishment’s assertions that support for the Islamic regime was overwhelming.

While some analysts said the prospects for the imminent dawn of a new political order are slim, activists said the wall of fear has fallen and the path to a new revolution cannot be reversed.

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Students played a central role in the protests, with dozens of universities going on strike. Hundreds of schoolgirls joined and chanted “freedom, freedom, freedom”, despite violent repression by security forces.

“I am no longer afraid of them,” said a teenage student in the northern city of Sari. “They (the establishment) should be afraid of us. For years they have not allowed us to lead a normal life. The mullahs have to go.”

State media and hard-line officials described the protesters as “hypocrites, royalists, thugs and sedition.”

Rights groups said at least 250 protesters were killed, including girls, and thousands arrested.

The authorities, who have accused the United States and other Western countries of fomenting what they call “riots”, have not announced the death toll, but state media said about 30 members of the security forces were killed.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Dominic Evans Editing by Michael Georgi, Philippa Fletcher and Nick McPhee

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.