Iranians strike as Mahsa Amini protests enter sixth week

AFP , Saturday 22 Oct 2022

Shopkeepers and factory workers went on strike in Iran on Saturday as women-led nationwide protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini entered the sixth week, activists said.

File Photo: In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Oct. 1, 2022. AP


The death of 22-year-old Amini, after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran's strict dress code for women, has fuelled the biggest protests seen in the Islamic republic for years.

Young women have led the charge, removing their headscarves, chanting anti-government slogans and confronting the security forces, despite a crackdown that human rights groups say has killed at least 122 people.

Activists issued a call for fresh demonstrations as the Iranian working week got underway on Saturday, but it was difficult to gauge the turnout due to curbs on internet access.

"On Saturday... We will be together for freedom," activist Atena Daemi said in a Twitter post that bore an image of a bare-headed woman raising her fist.

The 1500tasvir social media channel told AFP there were "strikes in a couple of cities including Sanandaj, Bukan and Saqez", while adding it was difficult to see evidence of them online as "the internet connection is too slow".

Saqez, in the western province of Kurdistan, is Amini's home town, where anger flared at her burial last month, helping trigger the protest movement.

Elsewhere, "students protested in Yazd Faculty of Arts and Architecture, University of Tehran, Allameh University, Razi University in Kermanshah, Hamedan, Ahvaz and Yasuj universities," 1500tasvir said.

'Operatives, oligarchs, lobbyists'

Dozens of workers were seen gathering outside the Aidin chocolate factory in the northwestern city of Tabriz in footage shared by 1500tasvir. AFP was unable to immediately verify the videos.

Iran accused its arch-enemy the United States of seeking to use the protests to gain concessions in talks aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear agreement.

"The Americans continue to exchange messages with us, but they are trying to fan the flames of what has been going on inside Iran in recent days," said Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The organisers of a massive rally held in Berlin in solidarity with the Iranian protesters called on "democratic governments... to STOP negotiating with the criminal state called the Islamic republic".

In a statement, the Iranians for Justice and Human Rights group also called for the expulsion of the Islamic republic's ambassadors.

"We are not asking you to interfere in Iran, wage war or sanction Iran's people," it said.

"We want you to impose targeted sanctions on the leaders, operatives, oligarchs and lobbyists of the Islamic republic."

The Berlin rally, which drew thousands of people, is one of a number of demonstrations being held around the world, including in Australia and Japan.

A teachers' union in Iran has called for a nationwide strike on Sunday and Monday over the crackdown that Amnesty International says has cost the lives of at least 23 children.

The Co-ordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates said the "sit-in" would be in response to "systematic oppression" by the security forces at schools.

'Detaining, maiming, killing'

Activists have also accused the authorities of a campaign of mass arrests and travel bans to quell the protests, with athletes, celebrities and journalists caught up in the dragnet.

Overnight an Iranian climber, who was reportedly placed under house arrest for competing abroad last weekend without a headscarf, thanked her supporters on Instagram.

Elnaz Rekabi, 33, wore only a headband in an event at the Asian Championships in Seoul, in what many saw as a gesture of solidarity with the Amini protests.

"I sincerely thank all those who came to the airport for welcoming me, I love you," Rekabi said in her first social media comments since returning to Iran on Wednesday to a hero's welcome.

The BBC and London-based Iran International television said on Friday that Rekabi had been placed under house arrest. Her phone had reportedly been seized from her before she flew home.

On Friday, a New York-based human rights group called on the International Federation of Sport Climbing to do more to protect her.

IFSC "should engage with rights organisations to protect pro climber #ElnazRekabi and all Iranian athletes", the Center for Human Rights in Iran tweeted.

"Don't take the government in Iran's word at face value -- it has a documented history of detaining, maiming and killing those who oppose it," the CHRI added.

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