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Iranian security forces open fire on protesters gathered in their thousands for Mahsa Amini

Iranian security forces opened fire on protesters who massed in their thousands in Mahsa Amini’s hometown today to mark 40 days since her death, a human rights group said.

‘Security forces have shot tear gas and opened fire on people in Zindan square, Saqez city,’ Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran’s Kurdish regions, tweeted without specifying whether there were any dead or wounded.

Despite heightened security measures, columns of mourners had poured into Saqez in the western Kurdistan province to pay tribute to Amini at her grave at the end of the traditional mourning period.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16, three days after her arrest in Tehran by the notorious morality police for allegedly breaching the Islamic dress code for women.

Anger flared at her funeral last month and quickly sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock the Islamic republic in almost three years. 

Young women have led the charge in daily protests that have endured for more than a month, burning their hijab headscarves and confronting security forces.

‘Death to the dictator,’ mourners chanted at the Aichi cemetery outside Saqez, before many were seen heading to the governor’s office in the city centre.

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency confirmed clashes took place between security forces and people taking part in the protests in Saqez, though did not elaborate on whether there were any casualties.

‘A limited number of those present at Mahsa Amini’s memorial clashed with police forces on the outskirts of Saqez and were dispersed. Following the scattered clashes, internet in Saqez was cut off due to security considerations,’ the agency reported, adding about 10,000 people had gathered.

Thousands more seen making their way in cars, on motorbikes and on foot along a highway, through fields and even across a river, in videos widely shared online by activists and rights groups.

Despite heightened security measures, columns of mourners had poured into Saqez in the western Kurdistan province to pay tribute to Amini at her grave at the end of the traditional mourning period

A sea of cars and people can be seen on the streets in protests to mark the 40th day since Mahsa Amini died at the hands of Iran's morality police

A sea of cars and people can be seen on the streets in protests to mark the 40th day since Mahsa Amini died at the hands of Iran’s morality police

Young women have led the charge in daily protests that have endured for more than a month, burning their hijab headscarves and confronting security forces

Young women have led the charge in daily protests that have endured for more than a month, burning their hijab headscarves and confronting security forces

Young women waved their headscarves at a passing cars and chanted anti-regime slogans in one video circulating on social media

Young women waved their headscarves at a passing cars and chanted anti-regime slogans in one video circulating on social media

Mahsa Amini, 22, died in police custody after being detained in Tehran by Iranian morality police who believed she was wearing her hijab too loosely

Mahsa Amini, 22, died in police custody after being detained in Tehran by Iranian morality police who believed she was wearing her hijab too loosely

Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Oct. 1, 2022

Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Oct. 1, 2022

Noisily clapping, shouting and honking car horns, mourners packed the highway linking Saqez to the cemetery five miles away, in images reportedly verified by Hengaw. 

‘This year is the year of blood, Seyed Ali will be toppled,’ a group of them chanted in a video verified by AFP, referring to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

‘Kurdistan, Kurdistan, the graveyard of fascists,’ others were heard singing in another video shared by activists on Twitter.

Hengaw said strikes were underway in Saqez as well as Divandarreh, Marivan, Kamyaran and Sanandaj, and in Javanrud and Ravansar in the western province of Kermanshah.

The Norway-based rights group said Iranian football stars Ali Daei and Hamed Lak had travelled to Saqez ‘to take part in the 40th day’ service.

They had been staying at the Kurd Hotel but were ‘taken to the government guesthouse… under guard by the security forces’, it said.

Daei has previously run into trouble with authorities over his online support for the Amini protests.

Kurdistan governor Esmail Zarei-Kousha said the situation in Saqez was calm and dismissed as ‘completely false’ reports that roads into the city had been shut.

‘The enemy and its media… are trying to use the 40-day anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death as a pretext to cause new tensions but fortunately the situation in the province is completely stable,’ he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

An unveiled woman standing on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini's home town in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to mark 40 days since her death

An unveiled woman standing on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini’s home town in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to mark 40 days since her death

Video grabs from UGC images posted on October 26, show Iranian mourners marching towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini's home town in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan

Video grabs from UGC images posted on October 26, show Iranian mourners marching towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini’s home town in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan

University students chant at a protest following the police custody death of Mahsa Amini, which has sparked nationwide anti-government demonstrations, at the University in Tehran, Iran in this screengrab from social media video released October 26, 2022

University students chant at a protest following the police custody death of Mahsa Amini, which has sparked nationwide anti-government demonstrations, at the University in Tehran, Iran in this screengrab from social media video released October 26, 2022

Protests have been ongoing for well over a month in Iran following Amini's death, with demonstrations also taking place outside Iranian embassies across the world

Protests have been ongoing for well over a month in Iran following Amini’s death, with demonstrations also taking place outside Iranian embassies across the world

In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, a police motorcycle and a trash bin are burning during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini

In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, a police motorcycle and a trash bin are burning during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini

Hengaw said most of Saqez was ’empty’ as so many people had left the city to join the ceremony to commemorate Amini.

The social media channel 1500tasvir, which chronicles rights violations by Iran’s security forces, said fresh protests flared elsewhere including at universities in Tehran, Mashhad in Iran’s northeast, and Ahvaz in the southwest.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said the security forces’ crackdown on the Amini protests has claimed the lives of at least 141 demonstrators, in an updated death toll Tuesday.

Amnesty International says the ‘unrelenting brutal crackdown’ has killed at least 23 children, while IHR said at least 29 children have been slain.

More than five weeks after Amini’s death, the demonstrations show no signs of ending. They have been fuelled by public outrage over the crackdown that has claimed the lives of other young women and girls.

Iran’s Forensic Organisation said in a report this month that Amini’s death ‘was not caused by blows to the head and vital organs and limbs of the body’.

But lawyers acting for her family have rejected the findings and called for a re-examination of her death by another commission.

Iran announced sanctions Wednesday targeting individuals and media outlets in the European Union, in retaliation for the bloc’s punitive measures imposed last week on the morality police and other officials over the crackdown.

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