A heavy presence of security forces and internet disruptions were reported in the restive Iranian city of Zahedan on June 30, as local residents took to the streets for weekly protests against the Islamic Republic.
Molavi Abdulhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, did not lead the prayers in the city’s Grand Makki Mosque. He has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of nationwide protests in September 2022.
Videos shared on social media show the deployment of anti-riot forces in Zahedan, the capital of the south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, which is home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.
Baluch activists reported the presence of the forces in Tabatabai, Khorramshahr and Khayyam Streets.
Meanwhile, internet monitor NetBlocks reported a “disruption to internet connectivity” in Zahedan, saying that the incident is “consistent with the established pattern of internet shutdowns targeting demonstrations.”
⚠️ Confirmed: Metrics show a disruption to internet connectivity in Zahedan, #Iran, during weekly anti-government protests at Friday prayers; the incident is consistent with the established pattern of internet shutdowns targeting demonstrations 📉 pic.twitter.com/pjcqYKmlcL— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 30, 2023
Zahedan has been rocked by weekly protest rallies after Friday prayers since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest incident in the months-long demonstrations that swept Iran following Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody in September.
Molavi Abdulhamid, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric, has used his Friday sermons to harshly criticize the Islamic Republic and to call for fundamental economic, social and political changes in the country.
Last week, unnamed sources were quoted as saying that a recent assassination attempt against Molavi, orchestrated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), had been thwarted and the would-be perpetrator was arrested.
His grandson and several of the cleric’s associates have since been arrested by the authorities.