JEDDAH: Thousands of Iranians took to the streets again on Friday as a six-week wave of nationwide protests showed no sign of abating.
Security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Zahedan in the southeast, dissidents said the regime had lost control of the northern Kurdish city of Mahabad, and half the members of the notorious Basij militia in Tehran failed to turn up for work enforcing the crackdown on protests.
Rights groups said “unlawful killings” by regime police and soldiers had killed at least eight people in four provinces within 24 hours, including two in Baneh near Iran’s western border with Iraq.
Dissident activists said more than 400 people had now died in the regime’s repression of protests that began after Mahsa Amin, 22, from Kurdistan province, died in morality police custody on Sept. 16.
A spokesman for the MEK dissident group said: “The global solidarity of Iranians abroad has boosted the demonstrators in Iran as the uprising continues to surprise analysts and shock regime insiders, whose plans to rein in and pacify the uprising have failed. Protesters are calling on an everyday presence and turnout to exhaust the regime’s security forces.”
The clashes in Mahabad came as mourners at the funeral of Ismail Mauludi, a 35-year-old protester killed on Wednesday night, took over the governor’s office, the police station, banks and businesses linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Elsewhere there was fighting near the grave of 16-year-old Nika Shahkarami outside the western city of Khorramabad, where dozens of people marked the end of the traditional 40-day mourning period since she was killed by security forces.“I’ll kill, I’ll kill, whoever killed my sister,” protesters chanted. Dozens of men hurled projectiles under fire as they drove back security forces on a bridge near the dead girl’s tomb.
Analysts said they expected the violence to worsen. “I doubt that the security forces have ruled out conducting a larger-scale violent crackdown,” said Henry Rome, an Iran specialist at the Washington Institute.
“They may be making the calculation that more killing would encourage, rather than deter, protesters — if that judgment shifts, then the situation would become even more violent.”
Amnesty International demanded urgent action to halt the bloodshed. “Failure to act decisively will only embolden the Iranian authorities to further crack down against mourners and protesters set to gather in the coming days during commemorations marking 40 days since the first deaths of protesters,” it said.