Protests erupt in Ahwaz after popular dissident poet dies in Iranian hospital

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Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in the city of Ahwaz after Hassan Heydari, a young popular dissident poet, died in hospital under suspicious conditions a month after his arrest by Iranian authorities.

Videos on social media showed hundreds of protesters gathering in the streets on Sunday evening after news that Heydari had died in Shafa hospital in Ahwaz, the capital of Iran’s Khuzestan province.

Radio Farda, the Iranian outlet of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reported that Heydari was initially arrested by the regime last year but had been recently released on bail.

According to several Ahwazi activists on Twitter, protesters believe that Heydari was poisoned by the regime’s intelligence ministry during his last arrest.

Several videos shared on Twitter showed a number of young men blocking a road in the Kut Abdollah district south of Ahwaz with burning tires and chanting slogans against the Iranian regime.

One popular chant that could be heard in several videos show protesters shouting, “we will retake Ahwaz”.

Heydari’s death comes just a day after Iranian authorities arrested Saeed Bawi after a video emerged of him shouting pro-Arab slogans at a football match in Foolad Arena stadium last week.

The Arab minority population in southwestern Iran has long claimed that they face discrimination from the central government in Tehran.

Last year, Ahwaz and other cities across the Khuzestan province took part in mass country-wide protests.

At the time, Amnesty International said authorities arrested and held incommunicado more than 7,000 “protesters, students, journalists, environmental activists, workers, and human rights defenders, including lawyers, women’s rights activists, minority rights activists, and trade unionists,” in what they dubbed the “Year of Shame” for Iran.

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