The protesters are followers of Moravi Abdul Hamid Ismaelzahi, popularly known in Iran as Moravi Abdul Hamid, the most prominent Sunni cleric in a country ruled by a Shia theocracy. be. There are few public figures in Iran with the ruthlessness to challenge the authorities in Tehran, but Moravi Abdul Hamid is among them. His increasingly bold demands for accountability and political dialogue have inspired protesters in Zahedan and in the heart of the Baluchi ethnic group, which has long been one of his poorest regions in the country.
In a sermon on Friday, he pleaded with the government to allow room for peaceful protests. “The path of criticism must never be blocked. Whoever blocks the path of criticism…will lead to tyranny.”
‘Bloody Friday’: Witnesses describe deadliest crackdown in Iran protests
Zahedan was the site of the bloodiest crackdown by Iranian security forces since nationwide demonstrations began in mid-September. On September 30, Moravi he flooded the streets with demonstrators chanting “death to the dictator” after Abdul Hamid delivered a sermon. Detention of Iran’s “morality police”.
However, according to Amnesty International, at least 66 people were killed when security forces opened fire on the crowd on what is now known as ‘Bloody Friday’. Other human rights groups put the death toll much higher.
The crackdown was intended as a message to protesters and Moravi Abdul Hamid, who are mostly Baluchi, according to analysts and activists.
But rather than back down, the clergy immediately demanded that the security forces responsible for the killings be brought to justice and that authorities heed the protesters’ calls for change.
Morawi Abdul Hamid uses Friday sermons every week at the Makki Mosque in Zahedan to increase pressure on the government, but he does not mention Khamenei by name.
“We died, but we didn’t kill anyone,” he said Friday. “And we will not allow anyone to kill another. Allow speech so that people can speak. I didn’t want anything [the government]what I wanted was for people who shoot people to be punished.
Last month, Moravi Abdul Hamid called for a referendum to answer protesters’ demands. This is an unthinkable proposition from other celebrities.
“He’s an almost unmanageable stature for the regime,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University.
Moravi Abdul Hamid has long been an outspoken figure in Iran and has been seen as a leader of the Baluchi minority and the wider Sunni community, but his statements since the protests began have allowed dissent. represents an unprecedented challenge to a non-governmental government.
Khamenei seems to take the threat seriously. Last week, a hacker group called Black Reward issued a statement on his Telegram channel, announcing that it had hacked the Fars news agency, which has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Among the leaked items was a confidential message from Khamenei to the country’s security forces advising that Moravi Abdul Hamid “should not be arrested.” But he should be dishonorable. ”
The Washington Post was unable to independently confirm the veracity of the message, but experts say it is consistent with past efforts by the government to undermine reformist figures. .
Milani interpreted this message as follows: In other words, you might be able to undermine him in public first and then arrest or kill him. ”
Over the past month, the crackdown on common baluch has increased. Special units of the Revolutionary Guard have been sent from other provinces to Sistan and Balochistan, activists say. They say the situation in many cities resembles martial law, with checkpoints and security force patrols.
Amnesty International said on 4 November that security forces killed at least 18 “protesters, bystanders and worshipers” after Friday prayers in the city of Kaş, south of Zahedan.
“The number of people killed in Baluchistan and the Kurdistan region is much higher than in central Iran, because the political costs are lower,” said Mahmoud Amily Moghadam, Iran’s human rights director based in Oslo. Stated.
Authorities are also increasing arrests of protesters, with families receiving little to no information about those detained, many of whom are minors. Activists say Zahedan’s central prison lacks proper facilities and is crammed into spaces not intended to hold detainees.
Iran regime at deadlock as protests defy crackdown
There are also reports of abuse and torture. One of his detainees brought to Zahedan’s court had his fingernails and toenails pulled out and was unable to stand up properly, said Shiramad, a Baluchi human rights activist who has spent many years in prison. said Mr.
“They want the security situation to continue,” Sirani said. “Baltistan is different from all parts of the country.”
Moravi Abdul Hamid spoke about abuse in his Friday sermon. “Do not execute or kill protesters,” he urged. “Don’t hit them. Set them free.”
But with the government showing no signs of easing, analysts fear the crackdown on protesters could provoke an armed uprising. They say it could be easily available.
“There is a limit to how much a person can consume,” Milani said. “I think one of the reasons it didn’t happen is because they know the administration wants it. increase.”