Thousands of protesters descended to the streets of the south-eastern Iranian city of Zahedan amid heavy security presence, in the 34th consecutive Friday of demonstrations against the Islamic Republic.
Haalvsh, a group that monitors rights violations in Sistan and Baluchistan province, said on May 26 that military personnel and plainclothes officers arrested at least 10 protesters in Towheed and Khayyam Streets. It also reported widespread detentions in other areas of the city.
The demonstrators chanted slogans including "Death to the execution regime" and "We Don't Want This Republic of Executions."
🎞️ Protesters took to the streets after #Zahedan’s Friday prayers and chanted: “Basiji, IRGC, You are Our ISIS”. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and its paramilitary Basij youth brigade, have been at the forefront of suppressing anti-government protests in #Iran.#truth… pic.twitter.com/Rux3LDnktc— IranWire (@IranWireEnglish) May 26, 2023
Internet monitor NetBlocks reported a “another major internet outage” in the city, saying that “the recurring disruption adds to the pattern of weekly internet shutdowns aimed at stifling anti-government demonstrations during Friday prayers.”
⚠️ Confirmed: Network data show Zahedan, #Iran has experienced another major internet outage this afternoon; the recurring disruption adds to the pattern of weekly internet shutdowns aimed at stifling anti-government demonstrations during Friday prayers 📉 pic.twitter.com/CxdlZnGOsS— NetBlocks (@netblocks) May 26, 2023
Ahead of the weekly protests, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan used his sermon to denounce the pressures exerted on lawyers and the work of parliament members, and said that the right to hold peaceful demonstrations should be recognized.
"When you put the lawyer in prison, who dares to defend the people?” Molavi Abdulhamid asked.
He also said that MPs should "prioritize overseeing government performance, upholding justice and protecting the rights and freedoms of the people, rather than concerning themselves with trivial matters like basic amenities."
Expressing concern over the forced “confessions” of protesters, the 76-year-old cleric stressed the importance of MPs visiting detention centers to ensure the fair treatment of detainees.
Molavi, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric, has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of nationwide protests in September 2022 demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people. The city has been rocked by protest rallies every Friday since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest incident in the widespread demonstrations.
Iranian security forces have responded to the women-led protest movement with brutal force, killing more than 520 people during demonstrations and unlawfully detaining over 20,000 others, including dozens of journalists and lawyers, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
The protests and clampdown on dissent have been particularly intense in western Kurdish areas and Sistan and Baluchistan.