‘Not afraid anymore’: Clashes as Iran protests enter fourth week

PARIS (AFP): Schoolgirls chanted slogans, workers went on strike and street clashes erupted in Iran on Saturday, as protests over the death of Mahsa Amini entered a fourth week in defiance of a bloody crackdown.

Anger flared over the death of the 22-year-old Iranian Kurd on September 16, three days after she was arrested in Tehran by the notorious morality police for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.

“Woman, life, freedom,” girls were heard chanting at a school in Amini’s hometown Saqez, in Kurdistan province, where another group of girls were seen swinging headscarves above their heads on a street, in videos the Hengaw rights group said were recorded on Saturday.

In another video it shared, a group of girls could be heard chanting the same phrase — the catchcry of the protests — as they entered a school in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province.

The protests followed calls for people to take to the streets again overnight.

“We are not afraid anymore. We will fight,” said a large banner placed on an overpass of the Modares highway that cuts through central Tehran, according to online images verified by AFP.

In another widely shared video, a man is seen altering the wording of a large government billboard from “The police are the servants of the people” to “The police are the murderers of the people.”

Hengaw, a Kurdish rights group based in Norway, said “widespread strikes” were taking place in Saqez, Sanandaj and Divandarreh, in Kurdistan province, as well as Mahabad in West Azerbaijan province.

Shots could be heard as protesters clashed with security forces on a street in Sanandaj, in a video shared by the 1500tasvir social media channel that monitors violations in the Islamic republic.

The same source said there were protests in the southern city of Shiraz.

It also shared videos of demonstrators in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, and the southern city of Kerman, where drivers honked their car horns as dozens of people gathered on the roadside.

AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage from 1500tasvir.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says at least 92 protesters have been killed by the security forces.

The crackdown has fueled tensions between Iran and the West, especially its arch enemy the United States.

Ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who took part in a ceremony on Saturday at a Tehran university marking the start of the academic year, has blamed the unrest on outside forces.

“Despite all the efforts of ill-wishers, the strong and hardworking people of Islamic Iran will overcome the problems ahead with unity and cohesion,” he was quoted as saying on the presidency’s website.