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Iranian state-organized protesters call for execution of protesters

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DUBAI — State-organized demonstrations were held in several Iranian cities on Friday to counter anti-government unrest sparked by the death of a woman in police custody, with demonstrators calling for the protesters to be executed.

The demonstrations followed the authorities’ strongest warning yet when the military told Iranians it would confront “the enemies” behind the unrest, a move that could signal the kind of crackdown that has crushed protests across the country. last.

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Demonstrators condemned the anti-government demonstrators as “soldiers of Israel”, live state television coverage showed. They also shouted “Death to America” ​​and “Death to Israel,” common slogans used by the country’s clerical rulers to try to drum up support for the authorities.

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“Koran violators must be executed,” shouted the crowd.

Iranians have staged mass protests over the case of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died last week after being arrested by morality police for wearing “inadequate clothing”.

The morality police, attached to Iran’s law enforcement agencies, are tasked with ensuring respect for Islamic morality as described by the country’s clerical authorities.

Amini’s death has reignited anger over issues including Iran’s restrictions on personal freedoms, strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.

The Iranian military’s message on Friday, seen as a warning to protesters enraged by the killing, said: “These desperate actions are part of the enemy’s evil strategy to weaken the Islamic regime.”

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The military said that they “will confront the various plots of the enemies to guarantee the security and peace of the people who are being unjustly attacked.”

Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi also warned the “seditious” on Friday that their “dream of defeating religious values ​​and the great achievements of the revolution will never be realized,” according to AsrIran’s website.

Anti-government protests were especially strong in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan and nearby areas. State television said two caches of weapons, explosives and communication equipment had been seized and two people arrested in northwestern Iran, which includes the border with Iraq, where armed Kurdish dissident groups are based.

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The human rights group Hengaw said a general strike was held on Friday in Oshnavieh, Javanroud, Sardasht and other cities in the northwest where many of Iran’s up to 10 million Kurds live.

Internet blocking watchdog NetBlocks said that mobile internet has been disrupted in Iran for the third time.

“Live metrics show nationwide connectivity loss at leading cellular operator MCI,” he said on Twitter.

Mobile internet had been partially reconnected overnight.

Twitter accounts linked to anonymous “hacktivists” expressed support for the protests, saying they had attacked 100 Iranian websites, including several government-owned ones.

The websites of the central bank, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and several state-affiliated news agencies have been disrupted in recent days.

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SECURITY FORCES UNDER ATTACK

Iran’s clerical rulers fear a resurgence of protests that erupted in 2019 over rising gasoline prices, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic’s history. Reuters reported that 1,500 people were killed.

Human rights groups such as Hengaw and HRANA, lawyers and social media users reported widespread arrests of students and activists at their homes by security forces in an apparent effort to quell the protests.

Majid Tavakoli, a student leader turned human rights activist, was detained overnight, his brother Mohsen said.

“They raided the house and arrested Majid while he was sleeping… We can’t do anything. Please spread the word,” Mohsen Tavakoli wrote in a tweet.

In the latest unrest, protesters in Tehran and other cities torched police stations and vehicles as outrage over Amini’s death showed no signs of abating, with reports of attacks on security forces.

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Iranian media reported on Thursday the arrest of 288 “rioters.”

In Madrid, four topless activists from the Femen women’s movement protested Friday outside the Iranian embassy over Amini’s death, holding signs reading “Woman, Life, Liberty” and “Mahsa Amini was killed.”

The protest took place peacefully and there were no arrests.

In Athens, angry protesters demonstrating over Amini’s death tried to approach the Iranian embassy on Thursday before being forced back by shield-wielding police. Protesters chanted slogans and carried banners reading “Homophobia and sexism kill.”

Iranian media said that the Foreign Ministry summoned Swedish chargé d’affaires in Tehran to protest a demonstration at the Tehran embassy in Stockholm. Images posted on social media showed protesters writing slogans at the gate of the mission.

Protests over Amini’s death were also held in Canada and the Netherlands on Thursday. (Reporting from Dubai Newsroom; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Alex Richardson, Angus MacSwan, William Maclean and Andrew Heavens)

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