Protests erupted in southeastern Iran, with protesters attacking banks as a senior hardline cleric called for a crackdown on protesters across the country.
The Islamic Republic has been gripped by five weeks of demonstrations that erupted after the death last month in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
On Friday, police arrested at least 57 people they described as “demonstrators” after protesters threw stones and attacked banks in the city of Zahedan, provincial police chief Ahmad Taheri was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
State television reported that up to 300 protesters marched in the city after Friday prayers. Banks and shops with broken windows were visible on it.
Videos posted on social media showed thousands of protesters chanting “Death to the dictator,” referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and “Death to the Basij,” referring to the Basij militia, which has been widely used to quell protests. Reuters could not verify the video.
Zahedan is the capital of the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, home to the Iranian Baloch minority. Amnesty International said security forces killed at least 66 people in a brutal crackdown after Friday prayers in Zahedan on September 30.
Senior Sunni cleric Zahedan said on Friday that senior Iranian officials should take responsibility for the killings.
“For what crime were they killed? The officials, the leaders of the country, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic (Khamenei), who commands all the armed forces, are accountable to God,” said Molavi Abdolhamid, a leading Sunni cleric, according to a video recording of Friday’s prayer sermon in Zahedan, posted on his website. .
At the time, state media said “unknown gunmen” opened fire on the police station, prompting security forces to return fire.
Iran blamed the riots on “thugs” linked to “foreign enemies.”
The nationwide protests turned into one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s spiritual leaders since the 1979 revolution. Protesters have called for the fall of the Islamic Republic, although the protests do not appear to be close to toppling the system.
Activist news agency HRANA reported that 244 protesters, including 32 minors, were killed in the riots.