Al-Arabia – Iranian protesters set fire to a banner of slain commander Qassem Soleimani on the sixth day of continued anti-regime demonstrations. Meanwhile, at the United Nations General Assembly, President Ebrahim Raisi held up a photo of Soleimani demanding those behind his killing be brought to justice.
Protests continued to sweep the country for a sixth consecutive day on Wednesday. Footage circulating on social media showed people chanting against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, calling for the downfall of the regime, clashing with security forces, and attacking police vehicles.
Demonstrations reached the city of Kerman, Soleimani’s birthplace, where two protesters set fire to a large banner featuring the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, as seen in a video shared on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Raisi vowed, in a speech to the UNGA, to seek “justice” for the 2020 US killing of Soleimani while holding up a picture of the slain commander.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds up a photo of Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. attack, during his remarks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 21, 2022 in New York City. (Reuters)
Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC, and was seen as Khamenei’s right hand man.
Since Soleimani’s death, Iranian protesters have targeted him, shouting slogans against him and tearing down his banners, to express discontent with the regime.
Security forces opened fire on protesters, killing and wounding several people, according to videos shared on Twitter by @1500tasvir, an account with nearly 100,000 followers that posts protest videos received from inside Iran.
Iranian Kurdish rights group Hengaw said on Wednesday security forces shot dead seven people over the past four days in Kurdish-majority regions in western and northwestern Iran, where heavy clashes have been taking place between protesters and security forces.
The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. She was from Iran’s Kurdistan province.
More than 500 Kurdish citizens have been arrested, Hengaw added.
Iranian authorities have confirmed several deaths, holding anti-regime protesters responsible.
Hossein Ojaghi, a member of the Basij, a paramilitary arm of the IRGC, was stabbed to death by “rioters” during protests in the northwestern city of Tabriz, the semi-official Fars news agency reported late on Wednesday.
Ojaghi was present at the protests to “confront rioters,” it said.
State news agency IRNA said police arrested “some riotous leaders” during Wednesday’s demonstrations in Tehran.
The agency also said a “police assistant” died from injuries on Tuesday in the southern city of Shiraz following clashes with protesters.
Khamenei ignores protests
Supreme Leader Khamenei gave a televised speech on Wednesday in which he refrained from commenting on the ongoing protests. That was his first public appearance since the demonstrations sparked by Amini’s death escalated.
Khamenei addressed a gathering in Tehran that included senior military commanders ahead of the anniversary of the start of the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war in 1980.
The supreme leader has in the past blamed anti-regime demonstrations on the Islamic Republic’s foreign “enemies.”
Instagram, WhatsApp restricted
Authorities restricted on Wednesday access to Instagram and WhatsApp, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.
Instagram is the only major unblocked social media platform in Iran and as a result is widely popular with millions of users inside the country. Facebook and Twitter have been banned for years.
“The Instagram social media platform and WhatsApp messaging app were subsequently restricted nationally on Wednesday 21 September, followed by a nation-scale shutdown of mobile networks,” NetBlocks said.
“The network disruptions are likely to severely limit the public’s ability to express political discontent and communicate freely,” it added.
Iran has in recent years restricted internet access during anti-regime protests to stymie demonstrations.
“Iran is now subject to the most severe internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre,” NetBlocks said, referring to when authorities shut down access to the internet for several days amid widespread anti-regime protests.
During the 2019 protests, security forces killed about 1,500 people, according to a Reuters report. There are now concerns Tehran is gearing up for a similar crackdown amid reports about internet restrictions.
The latest protests erupted across Iran after Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was pronounced dead on Friday. She fell into a coma shortly after she was detained by the morality police for allegedly not complying with the regime’s strict hijab rules in Tehran on September 13.
Activists and protesters say Amini was beaten by police officers while in detention, causing her serious injuries that led to her death. Police deny the allegations.