“Riots” that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody last month, have reached their “final days”, Iran’s deputy interior minister Majid Mirahmadi said Saturday.
Demonstrations that were triggered by the death of the 22-year-old Amini on September 16 after her arrest for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women, have entered a sixth week. The street violence has led to dozens of deaths, mostly among protesters but also among the security forces, and hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested.
“There are various gatherings in some universities, which are decreasing every day, and the riots are going through their final days,” state news agency IRNA quoted Mirahmadi as saying.
“The situation in the provinces is good and we don’t have riots that led to urban unrest,” he added.
Mirahmadi said the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, on the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, was an exception but blamed “provocative” prayer sermons by a local Sunni Muslim cleric for fresh violence there on Friday.
“The issue of Zahedan is different,” he said referring to the province’s capital, one of the few Sunni-majority cities in mainly Shiite Iran.
“Yesterday’s (Friday’s) sermons by Molavi Abdol Hamid were provocative,” the Tasnim news agency quoted him as saying. “150 thugs attacked public property and even Sunni shops. If there were no provocative remarks in the sermons, we would have seen peace in Zahedan.”
The city’s Makki Mosque, where Abdol Hamid is prayer leader, has been a focal point of unrest which broke out on September 30, leaving dozens dead including members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the ideological arm of Iran’s military.
State media characterised the unrest as attacks by “extremists” on police stations. But Abdol Hamid said security forces “shot at people” around the mosque, amid public anger over the alleged rape of a teenage girl by a local police commander.
On Friday, he said “officials and those running the country… are all responsible” for what happened in Zahedan, according to his website. IRNA said “thugs and rioters” gathered at the Makki Mosque after Friday prayers and “shouted slogans and threw rocks at shops, cars and banks”.
Provincial police chief Ahmad Taheri said 57 “rioters” were arrested. President Ebrahim Raisi has ordered an investigation into the violence.
Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchestan has long been a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs, as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and Sunni Muslim extremist groups.
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