Iran handed down a second death sentence in three days as clashes left at least six dead as women-led protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in custody entered a third month on Wednesday.
Street violence raged across Iran overnight as protests sparked by Amini’s September 16 death intensified on the anniversary of the deadly 2019 crackdown.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish descent, died in the custody of the notorious vice squad after her arrest for an alleged violation of Iran’s strict dress code for women.
“We will fight! We are going to die ! We will take back Iran! Dozens of protesters could be heard chanting around a bonfire on a Tehran street overnight, in video posted by social media monitor 1500tasvir.
In a widely shared video verified by AFP, security forces appear to open fire on dozens of commuters at a Tehran metro station, causing them to jostle and fall on top of each other on the platform.
Protest organizers have called for three days of actions to commemorate the hundreds of people killed in the “Bloody Aban” – or Bloody November – protests that erupted on November 15, 2019 after a shock decision to raise fuel prices.
Bazaar shops were closed and students boycotted classes before people took to the streets after dark, chanting anti-government slogans and braving tear gas, according to videos posted online.
But the 1500tasvir observer said the families of those killed in the 2019 crackdown “were forced to cancel the ceremonies” due to “threats and pressure from the Islamic Republic”.
Iranian authorities have struggled to contain the protests, which have seen women stripping and burning their headscarves and clashing with security forces in the streets.
State media said “rioters” – a term officials used to describe protesters – killed two members of the Revolutionary Guards and a member of its paramilitary Basij force on Tuesday.
Guards Colonel Reza Almasi was shot dead in Bukan, a town in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, and another Guardsman, Reza Azabar, was shot dead in Kamyaran, a Kurdish-majority town in Kurdistan province. Western Azerbaijan, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The Basij member died after being hit by a Molotov cocktail in the southern city of Shiraz, he added.
Three protesters were killed, two in Sanandaj and one in Kamyaran by direct fire from government forces, the Oslo-based rights group Hengaw said.
The unrest was stoked by furor over women’s dress rules, but has blossomed into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
He has shown no signs of slowing down despite authorities using lethal force and a campaign of mass arrests that has ensnared activists, journalists and lawyers.
The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said on Saturday that security forces had killed at least 326 people, including 43 children and 25 women, during the crackdown on Amini protests.
IHR said at least 15,000 people have been arrested – a figure Iranian authorities deny.
Fear of mass executions
The judiciary said a revolutionary court handed down the second death sentence on Tuesday for the “riots” that have rocked the country since Amini’s death.
The unnamed defendant was charged with “terrorizing people in the street with a bladed weapon, burning a citizen’s motorcycle and attacking a person with a knife”, said reported its Mizan Online website.
It came three days after a court handed down the first death sentence in connection with the protest movement that has rocked the Islamic Republic’s clerical leadership.
Five others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years for “gathering and conspiring to commit crimes against national security and disturbing public order”, Mizan said.
IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said the second death sentence was expected and more would likely be announced “one by one to minimize backlash”.
“We strongly condemn the death sentences handed down by the judiciary of the Islamic republic, which is part of the oppressive regime and not an independent judiciary,” he told AFP.
“The protesters do not have access to lawyers during the interrogation phase, they are subjected to physical and mental torture to make false confessions and sentenced on the basis of the confessions by the revolutionary courts.
“The international community must send a strong warning to the Islamic republic that the execution of protesters will have serious consequences,” Amiry-Moghaddam said.
“We fear mass executions unless the political cost of executions increases significantly,” he told AFP.