LONDON: Iran’s top Sunni cleric denounced the regime in a sermon on Friday, saying authorities were trying to silence the families of those killed in protests that have rocked the country in recent weeks.
Abdolhamid Ismail-Zai, 75, was speaking out after disproportionate violence against members of the Baluch, a predominantly Sunni group in Shia-majority Iran.
Ismail-Zai said 18 people were shot dead by security forces in southeastern Sistan and Balochistan provinces last week and their families are demanding justice.
“We don’t want money,” he said at a sermon at the Makki Mosque in the provincial capital Zahedan. “Who made this happen and for what reason? Those responsible for this must be brought to justice. This was the request of the martyrs’ families.”
Ismail-Zai has become increasingly vocal in her criticism of the regime through protests that began after the death in September of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in custody of the country’s morality police.
“There is no freedom in the Islamic Republic,” said Ismail Zay. “Where’s the freedom? Where’s the freedom of the press? Where’s the freedom of expression? Everything is censored. Everything is restricted.
“The majority of the Iranian people are protesting. The majority of the Iranian people are opposed and unsatisfied.
In recent weeks, Ismail Zay has questioned why authorities used live ammunition against protesters in Baltistan and Kurdistan, as opposed to tear gas and non-lethal bullets against demonstrations elsewhere. ing.
In his sermon, he also criticized politicians who recently called for the death penalty for protesters, although he did not mention Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Representatives represent the people,” he said. “You have to listen to people. You have to protect people from the bullets of war pointing at them.”
A source close to Ismail-Zai told The Independent:
After Friday’s prayers, protests against the regime erupted across the region, with demonstrators denouncing Ayatollah Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. People reportedly threw stones at the security forces and numerous fires were set.
Amnesty International says Sistan and Balochistan have suffered disproportionate violence from the regime compared to many other regions.
Amnesty International said on Friday that “protesters from the repressed Baluch minority have bore the brunt of security forces’ particularly vicious crackdown on the demonstrations.”
So far, about a quarter of those killed in violence across Iran, including about 100 killed in Zahedan on September 30, have stayed in Cistern and Baluchistan. I started.
This is not the first time Ismail-Zai has criticized the regime – he has been a vocal critic for years.
An advocate for peace, he criticizes the armed Baluch separatists and instead advocates a referendum on the country’s political future.