TEHRAN: Protests in Iran raged on streets into on Thursday with demonstrators remembering a bloody crackdown in the country’s southeast, even as the nation’s intelligence minister and army chief renewed threats against local dissent and the broader world.
The protests in Iran, sparked by the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman after her detention by the country’s morality police, have grown into one of the largest sustained challenges to the nation’s theocracy since the chaotic months after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
At least 328 people have been killed and 14,825 others arrested in the unrest, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests over their 54 days.
Iran’s government for weeks has remained silent on casualty figures while state media counterfactually claims security forces have killed no one.
As demonstrators now return to the streets to mark 40th-day remembrances for those slain earlier — commemorations common in Iran and the wider Middle East — the protests may turn into cyclical confrontations between an increasingly disillusioned public and security forces that turn to greater violence to suppress them.
Online videos emerging from Iran, despite government efforts to suppress the internet, appeared to show demonstrations in Tehran, the capital, as well as cities elsewhere in the country.
Near Isfahan, video showed clouds of tear gas. Shouts of “Death to the Dictator” could be heard — a common chant in the protests targeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
It was not immediately clear if there were injuries or arrests in this round of protests, though Iran’IRNA news agency acknowledged the demonstrations near Isfahan.
They commemorated the Sept. 30 crackdown in Zahedan, a city in Iran’s restive Sistan and Baluchestan province, in which activists say security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest violence to strike amid the demonstrations.
Iranian officials have kept up their threats against the demonstrators and the wider world.
Iran blames Iran International, a London-based, Farsi-language satellite news channel for stirring up protesters. The broadcaster in recent days said the Metropolitan Police warned that two of its British-Iranian journalists faced threats from Iran that “represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.”
The commander of the ground forces of Iran’s regular army, Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heydari, separately issued his own threat against the protesters, whom he called “flies.”
“If these flies are not dealt with today as the revolutionary society expects, it is the will of the supreme leader of the revolution,” he reportedly said.
“But the day he issues an order to deal with them, they will definitely have no place in the country.”
A woman arrested on Thursday by Iran’s security forces has been formally charged with communicating with and transmitting information to a London-based television broadcaster Iran International.
The arrest comes amidst one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution, with nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police for not wearing “appropriate attire.”
Fars, a news agency affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reported that Elham Afkari was arrested as she tried to flee the country and that she was an “agent” of the Iran International broadcaster, whose officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rights activists denied that Afkari had been trying to flee Iran and said she was arrested in the southern city of Shiraz, her hometown.
State media showed pictures of her arrest, in which she was seen with a large black blindfold over her face and seated in the back of a security vehicle with barred windows.
“Recently, the agent carried out numerous activities and actions in slandering the Islamic Republic, inviting youth to riot and creating terror among the people,” Fars said with respect to Afkari.
Saeed Afkari confirmed his sister’s arrest on Twitter, adding that her husband and three-year-old daughter were released after being taken in for interrogation by Shiraz prosecutors, who filed the charges.
1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 330,000 followers focused on the Iran protests, shared a video of Elham’s relatives gathering in front of an intelligence service office in Shiraz to inquire about her condition, and getting no answers.
Elham is the sister of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler executed in September 2020 after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.
Afkari’s family and activists have said Navid was tortured into making a false confession, accusations that were denied by the Iranian judiciary.
Since the execution of Navid, the Afkaris have faced several court cases over involvement in the 2018 protests. Habib Afkari was freed in March 2022 after months of isolation in prison, while Vahid Afkari remains in solitary confinement.