Iranian protesters set fire to a banner of slain commander Qassem Soleimani on the sixth day of ongoing anti-regime demonstrations. Meanwhile, at the United Nations General Assembly, President Ebrahim Raisi held up a photo of Soleimani and demanded that those behind him be brought to justice.
On Wednesday, protests swept the country for the sixth straight day. Footage circulating on social media showed people chanting against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, calling for the overthrow of the regime, clashing with security forces and attacking police vehicles.
The demonstrations reached the city of Kerman, Soleimani’s birthplace, where two protesters set fire to a large banner depicting the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard commander, according to a video shared on Twitter.
Meanwhile, in a speech to the UNGA, Raisi vowed to seek “justice” for the US assassination of Soleimani in 2020, while holding up a picture of the slain commander.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a photo of Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US attack, during his speech at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN headquarters September 21, 2022 in New York City. (Reuters)
Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign arm, and was considered Khamenei’s right-hand man.
Since Soleimani’s death, Iranian protesters have targeted him, chanted slogans against him and torn down his banners to express their dissatisfaction with the regime.
Security forces opened fire on protesters, killing and wounding several people, according to videos shared on Twitter by @1500tasvir, an account with nearly 100,000 followers that posts protest videos from Iran.
Iranian Kurdish rights group Hengaw said on Wednesday security forces had shot dead seven people in majority Kurdish regions in western and northwestern Iran over the past four days, where heavy clashes between protesters and security forces had taken place.
The protests were triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. She came from the Iranian province of Kurdistan.
More than 500 Kurdish citizens have been arrested, Hengaw added.
Iranian authorities have confirmed several deaths, blaming them on anti-regime protesters.
Hossein Ojaghi, a member of the Basij, a paramilitary arm of the IRGC, was stabbed to death by “rioters” during protests in the northwestern city of Tabriz, the semi-official Fars news agency reported late Wednesday.
Ojaghi was present at the protests to “confront rioters,” it said.
State news agency IRNA said police arrested “some insurgent leaders” during demonstrations in Tehran on Wednesday.
The agency also said a “police assistant” died of injuries Tuesday in the southern city of Shiraz after clashes with protesters.
Khamenei ignores protests
Supreme Leader Khamenei gave a televised address on Wednesday in which he refrained from commenting on the ongoing protests. This was his first public appearance since the demonstrations triggered by Amin’s death escalated.
Khamenei was addressing a gathering in Tehran attended by senior military commanders ahead of the anniversary of the start of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War in 1980.
The supreme leader has in the past blamed the Islamic Republic’s foreign “enemies” for anti-regime demonstrations.
Instagram, WhatsApp restricted
Authorities restricted access to Instagram and WhatsApp on Wednesday, Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.
Instagram is the only major unblocked social media platform in Iran, making it very popular with millions of users in the country. Facebook and Twitter have been banned for years.
“The Instagram social media platform and WhatsApp messaging app were subsequently restricted nationwide on Wednesday, September 21, followed by a nationwide cellular network shutdown,” NetBlocks said.
“The network disruptions are likely to severely limit the public’s ability to express political dissatisfaction and communicate freely,” she added.
Iran has restricted internet access during anti-regime protests in recent years to prevent demonstrations.
“Iran is now subject to the strictest internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre,” NetBlocks said, referring to authorities shutting down internet access for several days amid widespread anti-regime protests.
During the 2019 protests, security forces killed about 1,500 people, according to a Reuters report. There are now concerns that Tehran is preparing for a similar crackdown amid reports of internet restrictions.
The latest protests erupted across Iran after Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was pronounced dead on Friday. She fell into a coma shortly after being arrested by vice squads in Tehran on September 13 for allegedly not following the regime’s strict hijab rules.
Activists and protesters say Amini was beaten by police officers while in detention, causing her serious injuries that resulted in her death. The police deny the allegations.
For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
Iran restricts access to Instagram as protests mount: report
Iran’s Khamenei ignores widespread protests over Mahsa Amini’s death
Iran unrest death toll rises as protests escalate