Thousands of Baloch protesters returned to the streets of Zahedan on March 24, as the southeastern city’s Sunni Friday prayer leader reiterated his call on the country’s Shia establishment to heed the “legitimate demands of the majority of the people.”
Each week, Zahedan residents have been holding protest rallies after Friday prayers led by Molavi Abdolhamid, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric.
In his latest sermon, Molavi said the authorities have “mishandled” the anti-government protests that have swept Iran for more than six months and that “it would have been fitting for them to listen to the concerns of the people.”
He also said that only drastic changes to the country’s domestic and foreign policies could alleviate the problems that Iran’s “ailing economy” is facing.
The 76-year-old cleric has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the September 2022 death of a young Kurdish woman in police custody sparked the ongoing wave of nationwide protests.
After Molavi’s sermon, demonstrators flooded the streets of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, chanting “This is the last message, the whole system is the target,” “I’ll kill whoever killed my bother” and “We don’t want child murderer government.”
Many slogans also targeted Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the paramilitary Basij force.
Meanwhile, internet monitor NetBlocks reported a “significant disruption” to connectivity in Zahedan and that the incident “follows an ongoing pattern of network blackouts targeting protests during Friday prayers.”
Iranian authorities have cracked down hard on the women-led protest movement, killing more than 520 people and unlawfully detaining over 20,000 since the demonstrations began, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
The protests and clampdown on dissent have been particularly intense in western Kurdish areas and Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran’s Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.