‘The beginning of the end’: Iranians continue protests over Mahsa Amini’s death despite internet cuts
- Demonstrators filled the streets of Iran on Saturday over Mahsa Amini despite internet outages, in the fifth week of the biggest protests and violence Iran has seen in years
- Iran’s crackdown on protesters has drawn international condemnation, sanctions from Britain, Canada and the US, and EU countries agreed this week to level new sanctions
Young women have been at the forefront of the demonstrations, shouting anti-government slogans, removing and burning their headscarves, and standing up to security forces on the streets.
Shopkeepers went on strike in Amini’s hometown Saqez, in Kurdistan province, and Mahabad in West Azerbaijan, according to the 1500tasvir social media channel that monitors protests and police violations.
“Freedom, freedom, freedom,” young women at Shariati Technical and Vocational College in Tehran chanted as they waved their headscarves in the air, 1500tasvir said.
“Schoolgirls in Ney village in Marivan began the protests by setting fires on the ground and yelling anti-government chants,” said Hengaw, an Oslo-based rights group.
Youths were also seen showing at universities in Tehran, Isfahan and Kermanshah, in footage widely shared online.
They were responding to an appeal for a huge turnout for protests on Saturday under the catchcry “The beginning of the end!”.
“We have to be present in the squares, because the best VPN these days is the street,” activists declared, referring to virtual private networks used to skirt internet restrictions.
In response to the call for fresh protests, one of Iran’s main revolutionary bodies, the Islamic Development Coordination Council, has urged people to “express their revolutionary anger against sedition and rioters”.
A call also went out this week for “retirees” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to gather on Saturday given “the current sensitive situation”, according to a journalist at the Shargh newspaper.
“It stunned me what it awakened in Iran. It awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted for a long, long time,” he said.
Iran “has to end the violence against its own citizens simply exercising their fundamental rights”, he added.
At least 108 people have been killed in the Amini protests, and at least 93 more have died in separate clashes in Zahedan, capital of the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, according to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
The unrest has continued despite what Amnesty International called an “unrelenting brutal crackdown” that included an “all-out attack on child protesters” – leading to the deaths of at least 23 minors.
“Who would believe that the death of one girl is so important to Westerners?” he said in a statement on Friday.
EU countries agreed this week to level new sanctions, and the move is due to be endorsed at the bloc’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.
In response to the protests, the clerical state’s security forces have also launched a campaign of mass arrests of artists, dissidents, journalists and athletes.
Iranian filmmaker Mani Haghighi said the authorities barred him from travelling to the London Film Festival over his support for the protests.
The British Film Institute said Haghighi had been due to attend the festival for his latest film “Subtraction”, but the Iranian authorities “confiscated his passport”.
“I cannot put into words the joy and the honour of being able to witness first-hand this great moment in history,” said Haghighi
“So if this is a punishment for what I’ve done, then by all means, bring it on.”