Protests flared up again across Iran and shops closed in a widening strike on Saturday as President Ebrahim Raisi repeated baseless accusations that the Islamic Republic’s foreign enemies are behind anti-government protests entering their fourth week.
As the large street rallies have mostly subsided, the protest movement has moved into universities and schools. As they reopened on Saturday, the first day of the Iranian week, protests broke out after two days of relative calm.
The streets of the capital Tehran were clogged throughout the afternoon with cars honking their horns in solidarity with the protest movement, drivers shouting “we want freedom” at each other. On the sidewalk, schoolgirls and women marched without the legal headscarf, or hijab, the rejection of which has become the main tool of protest. Some of them shouted “death to the dictator”. In some areas, security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
Thousands of protesters gathered outside Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, according to video posted online.
Protesters clashed with security forces around the city’s central bazaar, where shopkeepers went on strike. Footage shows a police station on fire. Joining the widening national strike, shopkeepers across the country, particularly in the western Kurdistan region, also kept their rolls.
In Tehran, Mr Raisi visited the all-female al-Zahra University to address a crowd of supporters to mark the new academic year. He used the opportunity to claim that the anti-government protests were orchestrated by Iran’s foreign enemies, likely referring to the US and Israel as in the past. Such claims are a familiar tactic for the country’s leadership.
“The enemy assumed that he could pursue his goals in the universities, not knowing that our students and professors are vigilant and do not let the enemy’s improper goals be realized,” Mr. Raisi said. “I am confident that this generation will defeat the enemy.”
Meanwhile, students in other parts of the university heckled the president: “Raisi, get lost!” according to a video posted online.
At Tehran University, protesters clashed with pro-government people, according to state media, which said students were locked inside the university to prevent outsiders from interfering with the rally. Special forces had secured the area.
One of the university’s most prominent political science professors, Sadegh Zibakalam, was banned from teaching at Tehran University by the school’s security department and his course was given to another professor, he told the Tehran-based reformist Shargh daily on Saturday.
The protest movement was sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 in the custody of morality police after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code.
Since then, the protests have spread widely and morphed from calls for the abolition of the compulsory veil to a definitive overthrow of the leadership of the Islamic Republic, which has been in power since 1979.
The government has imposed strict restrictions on the Internet, especially mobile networks. Iran’s telecommunications minister confirmed on Saturday that Instagram and WhatsApp had been blocked due to their alleged refusal to accept Iranian rules. Four years ago, Iran justified its censorship of Telegram by saying the app did not accept Iran’s demands to seek permission to operate in the country, follow Iran’s privacy regulations and move some servers to Iran to process Iranians’ data. users within the country.
As the government seeks to quell the uprising with lethal force, the number of children identified as being killed in the clashes is rising, adding fuel to public anger and increasing the number of faces now amassing in the protest movement.
Earlier in the week, the protests found new impetus when news spread on social media that a 16-year-old student, Nika Shahkarami, had died after taking part in a women’s rights rally and that authorities had taken her body to prevent her family by giving her a proper burial.
A lawyer in Tehran posted on Twitter what he said was the burial certificate of a 14-year-old boy killed by a bullet to the head during the protests. “Don’t announce tomorrow that he killed himself or [died] due to a previous illness,” said lawyer Ali Sharifzadeh. The Iranian government claimed that Ms. Shahkarimi fell from a roof and that Ms. Amini died of an illness.
— Aresu Eqbali and Benoit Faucon contributed to this article.
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