Hundreds of Zahedan residents took to the streets on June 2 for their 35th consecutive Friday of demonstrations against the country’s Shia clerical rulers.
The protesters gathered around Grand Makki Mosque after Friday prayers, chanting slogans such as "We reject the Islamic Republic" and "Down with the oppressive government that kills innocent children."
The chants "By the blood of our comrades, we will persist until the end" and "I will kill whoever killed my brother" also echoed through the streets of the restive south-eastern city.
The protesters also called for "freedom and equality for Kurds, Baluch and Azeris."
Ahead of the weekly demonstrations, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan vehemently denounced the financial dependence of religious seminaries and clerics on the government, saying that such a reliance stifles the scholars' ability to address important social issues.
Molavi Abdulhamid used his sermon to urge scholars to stand up and speak out against the challenges faced by the people.
The 76 year-old cleric expressed his concern that the majority of the population suffers from poverty and deprivation while a select few, including some scholars, amass tremendous wealth.
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 protest movement with brutal force, killing more than 520 people during demonstrations and unlawfully detaining over 20,000 others, 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.