Protesters took to the streets in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan on Friday to denounce the Islamic Republic, in what has become a weekly show of defiance against the regime in the Sunni-majority region.
Despite a brutal crackdown by security forces, Sistan-Baluchistan has witnessed protests weekly after Friday prayers since late September.
Videos shared on Twitter showed a large crowd marching in the streets of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan, with demonstrators chanting against Iran’s clerical rulers, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the Basij, a paramilitary force heavily involved in the regime’s crackdown on protests.
Another Friday, another round of anti-establishment protests in Zahedan.— Kian Sharifi (@KianSharifi) January 20, 2023
Since 30 Sept, there have been regular protests in Sistan-Baluchestan province every Friday. Today's demos come amid reports that Iranian authorities beefed up security in Zahedan.pic.twitter.com/vCslfz8HRd
“Khamenei is a murderer, his rule is illegitimate,” protesters chanted in one video.
Prior to Friday’s protests, Molavi Abdolhamid, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric, called on authorities not to imprison, torture or execute protesters.
Abdolhamid, who is based in Zahedan, also urged for the Islamic Republic’s constitution to be updated to reflect the needs of the new generation.
“The new generation has new conditions and different needs. It is very unfortunate that the whole of our constitution is the same law that was approved 44 years ago. This law should be updated according to the conditions of the time,” he said in a Friday prayers sermon, according to his website.
The Sunni cleric has been openly critical of the regime since nationwide protests erupted in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in police custody on September 16.
In November, Abdolhamid called for an internationally monitored referendum in Iran.
The protests, which quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, have been met with a violent crackdown from authorities, who view the protests as “riots” backed by foreign powers.
According to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, at least 481 people, including 64 children and 35 women, have been killed by security forces during the protests, with Sistan-Baluchistan having the highest number of fatalities at 131.
The province is one of Iran’s poorest regions and is mostly populated by Sunni ethnic Baluchis, a minority in predominantly Shia Iran. Human rights groups say they have faced discrimination and repression for decades.