Protests in Iran showed no sign of abating on Saturday, a day after protesters torched the ancestral home of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the architect of Iran’s 1979 revolution that ushered in more than four decades of theocratic rule.
The house in the city of Khomein is now a museum, but the attack is symbolic and could provoke tougher government action.
Violence is intensifying across Iran, two months after nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in state morality police custody.
According to state media, five members of the security forces were killed in the recent unrest.
In all, more than 400 people have died since September 16, according to human rights groups, while Iran’s state media reported that nearly 50 members of the security forces were killed.
Protests have also taken place at universities across the country – centers of anti-government sentiment as well as cities where marginalized minorities, including Baloch and Kurds, have gathered in large numbers on the streets.
The protest movement has also spread to the country’s many unions, leading to strikes by teachers and oil and steel workers.
The spark for the protests — a call for more women’s rights and an end to police brutality — has sparked several dissenting opinions, including calls for a secular government and anger at economic mismanagement as the nation grapples with high inflation and shortages of basic necessities.
The violence, which has claimed the lives of dozens of children, was strongly condemned by UNICEF, the UN organization for children, on Saturday.
“In Iran, Unicef remains deeply concerned by reports of children being killed, injured and detained. Despite a lack of official data, an estimated 50 children have reportedly died in public unrest in Iran since late September. The latest of these horrific casualties was 10-year-old Kiyan, who was shot dead in the car with his family. This is terrifying and needs to stop,” the statement said.
On Saturday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country’s enemies may try to mobilize workers after failing to overthrow the government in more than two months of unrest.
“Up to this hour, thank God, the enemies have been defeated. But the enemies have a new trick every day and with today’s defeat they may target other classes such as workers and women,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying.
Women and university students have played a prominent role in the anti-government street demonstrations, waving and burning headscarves to denounce Iran’s strict dress code for women.
On Saturday, activist news agency HRANA said sit-ins and protests with slogans like “freedom, freedom, freedom” were taking place at two dozen campuses in the capital Tehran and in major cities like Isfahan, Tabriz and Shiraz.
Kurdish rights group Hengaw released videos allegedly showing security forces shooting and killing one at protesters in the city of Divandarreh. Reuters could not verify the videos.
The official IRNA news agency said protesters had damaged the home of Divandarreh’s top state-sanctioned cleric and the local MP’s office, adding that two people may have been killed in the violence.
Videos posted to social media allegedly showed protests in a number of cities in western, northwestern and central Iran, some during funerals for protesters.
Protests also reached smaller communities. In Murmuri, a southwestern city of 3,500 people, the governor told IRNA about 150 protesters set fire to government buildings, banks and a post office before security forces restored order.
According to HRANA, 402 protesters had been killed in the riots as of Friday, including 58 minors. About 54 members of the security forces were also killed, it said. More than 16,800 people were arrested, it said.
State media reported last month that more than 46 security forces, including police officers, had been killed. Government officials have not provided an estimate of a broader number of deaths.
On Saturday, state television showed thousands attending at least four state-sponsored funerals for three members of the Basij militia, a police colonel, a seminary student and a border guard killed in recent unrest.
Iran’s strict judiciary has sentenced five protesters to death and said it would try more than 2,000 people charged with unrest, intensifying efforts to crack down on weeks of demonstrations.
Updated November 20, 2022 7:14 am