Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric has urged the country’s Shia clerical establishment and armed forces to leave politics, as residents of the south-eastern city of Zahedan took to the streets for their 41st consecutive Friday of protests against the Islamic Republic.
"We believe that the military can be successful in their own domain, but politics and policies are meant for politicians," Molavi Abdulhamid, the outspoken Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, said in his sermon on July 14.
"Let the scholars and clerics focus on teaching, issuing fatwas and other matters attributed to them," he added.
The 75-year-old Sunni cleric also condemned a recent armed attack on the Zahedan police station, saying that “the spirit of people does not condone violence and criminal activities."
On July 8, armed individuals attacked the police station near Grand Makki Mosque, where Molavi delivers his sermons. All four attackers and two police officers were killed in the assault.
The Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the police station was "one of the main causes of Bloody Friday."
It referred to September 30 when security forces killed nearly 100 people during protests in Zahedan, the deadliest incident in the nationwide demonstrations sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody.
The city has since been rocked by weekly protest rallies after Friday prayers.
On July 14, hundreds of Zahedan residents marched through the streets in silence amid internet disruptions and heavy security presence.
Internet monitor NetBlocks reported a “significant disruption to internet connectivity” in the city, saying that “the incident continues the weekly pattern of regional internet shutdowns targeting anti-government protests at Friday prayers.”
Molavi has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of the widespread protests in September 2022, using his sermons to call for fundamental economic, social and political changes in the country.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, which is home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people