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Iranian Sunni Cleric Calls For Reforms Amid Mass Protest In Restive Eastern City

January 20, 2023
1 min read
Iranian Sunni Cleric Calls For Reforms Amid Mass Protest In Restive Eastern City

Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan on January 20, as the country’s leading Sunni cleric again criticized the Islamic Republic’s bloody response to four months of nationwide demonstrations.

Molavi Abdolhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, urged Iran’s Shia clerical leaders to listen to “the demands of the youth and women,” instead of repressing them.

Molavi, a member of Sistan and Baluchistan province’s beleaguered Sunni Baluch community, has been a key dissenting voice inside the country since the anti-establishment protests erupted in September.

"Eighty-year-olds and ninety-year-olds cannot make decisions for today's youth," he said in his Friday prayer sermon, referring to Iran’s rulers.

"Everywhere in the world, they update the laws after 20 or 30 years. Unfortunately, our constitution has not been changed for 44 years," Molavi deplored.

Ahead of Friday prayers, reports said security forces had closed the roads leading to Zahedan and set up checkpoints across the city in an attempt to ward off demonstrations.

People in Zahedan have been holding protest rallies every Friday since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest incident so far in the widespread demonstrations.

Despite increased security measures, large crowds of protesters gathered in Zahedan on January 20, chanting slogans such as "Death to the dictator" and "Khamenei is a murderer,” in reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Angry Iranians also took to the streets of Rask, a city in Sistan and Baluchistan, and Galikesh in the northern province of Golestan.

Iranian security forces have cracked down hard on the protest movement, killing more than 500 people nationwide and detaining over 18,000, human rights activists say. At least 100 protesters are currently at risk of “execution, death penalty charges or sentences,” according to one rights group.

The demonstrations and state clampdown have been particularly intense in the country’s western Kurdish areas and Sistan and Baluchistan.

 

 

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