Iran's top Sunni cleric has continued his critical Friday prayer sermons as he urged the Islamic Republic's Shia leadership to heed the Iranian people's wishes for change.
"No government system can be preserved through the use of weapons," Molavi Abdulhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the south-eastern city of Zahedan, said on April 28.
The 76-year-old cleric advised Islamic scholars, as well as the armed forces and and law enforcement forces, to not stand against the people.
"The judicial system assured us that they would deal with this issue impartially," Abdulhamid said, referring to Zahedan's Bloody Friday on September 30 last year when more than 100 protesters were killed by security forces.
"But now we hear them say that they cannot punish anyone because it is not known who shot whom at that time, and we are surprised by the judges' words," he added.
Molavi has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of nationwide protests in September 2022, during which Iranians have demanded fundamental economic, social and political changes. Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.
Iranian authorities have cracked down in severe fashion on the women-led protest movement, killing more than 520 demonstrators and unlawfully detaining over 20,000, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
Zahedan residents 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 nationwide demonstrations triggered by the September 2022 death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody.
"Why could authorities quickly identify the killer of a security agent, and executed two people [accused of his murder], but not identify the killer when it was one of their own agents?" Molavi said on Friday.
The cleric emphasized that Iranians in Sistine and Baluchistan province not only want the perpetrators of the crime to be punished but also those who ordered the shootings.
He highlighted that prisoners who had been released had reported being tortured and coerced into making false confessions.
And as massive labor strikes continued in Iran, Molavi expressed his support for the strikes and urged the government to address the people's demands.
"These workers have gone on strike because they can't make a living," he said.
One of the main demands of striking workers is an increase in their salaries, Molavi said: "The wages paid to workers are insufficient for their basic needs."
In recent days, labor sources in Iran have released a list of at least 60 contractor companies in various industries where workers have gone on strike.
However, the government has refused to acknowledge these protests and has threatened striking workers with being replaced by thousands of new employees.
According to local sources, the Friday prayer was held amidst heavy security, with armed forces present in Zahedan, as in previous weeks.
Following the prayer, people gathered in the streets and shouted slogans against the Islamic Republic and its leader, Ali Khamenei.