- Tens of thousands demonstrate in Berlin in support of Iran’s protests
- Crowd chants ‘Death to Khamenei’ at Berlin rally
- Protests enter 6th week despite deadly crackdown
- The Revolutionary Guard warns clerics to “agitate” in the southeast
BERLIN/DUBAI, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday to show support for protesters in Iran, where unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody entered a sixth week despite a deadly state attack.
The protests have posed one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution, although they do not appear close to toppling a government that has deployed its powerful security apparatus to quell the unrest.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died in the custody of the morality police after being detained for “inappropriate dress”. Protests broke out at her funeral on September 17 in the Kurdish city of Saqez before spreading across Iran. Rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed in the attack.
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Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning veils. The deaths of several teenage girls allegedly killed during protests have fueled more anger.
In Berlin, police estimated 80,000 people attended the march, where protesters waved Iranian flags and held banners reading “Woman, Life, Freedom”. Organizers said Iranians had traveled from the United States, Canada and across the European Union.
“From Zahedan to Tehran, I sacrifice my life for Iran,” human rights activist Fariba Balouch said after speaking at the Berlin gathering, referring to Iranian cities swept up in the protests. The crowd responded with “Death to Khamenei”, referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Anti-government activists said the Berlin march 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 Iranian people’. I am the voice of Mahsa Amini,” said a protester who gave her name as Maru.
Videos posted on social media – which Reuters could not independently confirm – showed protests continuing in Iran in several cities, including Tehran, northeastern Mashhad, northwestern Mahabad, Dezful in the southwest and a number of universities across the country.
Videos showed protesters chanting in Tehran’s western Sadeghieh neighborhood and lighting bonfires in the streets of the capital’s Lalehzar district. Another showed cars in Mashhad honking their horns and protesters chanting “Death to the dictator”.
Videos on social media said to be from Dezful showed youths chanting “Freedom, freedom, freedom” as they confronted police in the predominantly ethnic Arab, oil-rich province of Khuzestan on the Iraqi border.
‘THE LAST WARNING’
Khamenei has warned that no one should dare to believe they can uproot the Islamic Republic, accusing its opponents of fomenting the unrest. State television has reported the deaths of at least 26 members of the security forces.
Some of the deadliest unrest has been in areas home to ethnic minorities with long-standing grievances against the state. These include Sistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast and its provincial capital Zahedan.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accused a leading Sunni cleric on Saturday of agitating against the Islamic Republic and warned it could cost him dearly after he held officials including Khamenei responsible for dozens of deaths in Zahedan last month.
Amnesty International has said that security forces killed at least 66 people in an attack after Friday prayers in Zahedan on 30 September.
Molavi Abdolhamid, Zahedan’s leading Sunni cleric, said during his Friday sermon that officials, including Khamenei, head of the Shia-dominated state, were “responsible to God” for the September 30 killings. He described the killing as a massacre and said bullets had been fired at heads and chests.
A brief statement on Sepah News, the Revolutionary Guard’s official news site, said: “Mr. Abdolhamid, encouraging and agitating youth against the holy Islamic Republic of Iran may cost you dearly! This is the final warning!”
State media said at the time of the September 30 violence that “unidentified gunmen” opened fire on a police station, prompting security forces to return.
The Revolutionary Guards said five members of its forces and the volunteer Basij militia were killed during the September 30 violence. Authorities blamed a militant Baluchi group. Neither that group nor any other faction claimed a role.
Protests had been fueled by allegations of the rape of a local teenage girl by a police officer. Officials have said the matter is being investigated.
After protests erupted in Zahedan again on Friday, Deputy Interior Minister for Security Majid Mir Ahmadi said calm had returned, the official IRNA news agency reported.
He said 150 “thugs attacked public property and even the shops belonging to Sunnis”.
Rights groups say the government has long discriminated against ethnic minorities, including the Kurds.
The state denies accusations of discrimination.
In Iran’s Kurdish region on Saturday, videos posted online showed shopkeepers on strike in several towns in the northwestern Kurdish region, including Sanandaj, Saqez and Bukan.
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Reporting from Dubai Newsroom and Victoria Waldersee, Leon Malherbe and Oliver Denzer in Berlin; writing by Tom Perry; editing by Alex Richardson and Christina Fincher
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.