Protests that have rocked Iran have reached the ninth consecutive day on Friday amid rising calls for more demonstrations under the slogan “The Friday of Anger for our Martyrs” referring to the 50 protesters who were killed so far by Iranian security forces, according to the opposition, Al Arabiya reports.
Activists called for nationwide protests hours after Friday prayers so as not to clash with pro-regime protests that include students of religious institutions, Revolutionary Guard supporters and the Basij militia. According to the government, the official number of deaths since the uprising is 22. However opposition announced that the toll has reached 50 on Friday.
Further protests are expected to take place after a match in the ‘Tractor Sazi’ stadium in Tabriz, the central province of Azerbaijan. Local sources in Tabriz said that roads leading to the province have been blocked with police checkpoints.
Amid social media calls for anti-regime protests in Tabriz, security forces are inspecting buses and interrogating match goers, local sources added. Pictures are being shared on social media of security forces kicking people out of buses and telling them to go home. They also said that military barracks have been set up there since Thursday night, and security forces were lined up all along the roads leading to the province, blocking people from going for the match.
Meanwhile, protesters around the country are being arrested. According to the opposition, more than 3,000 people have been arrested, while the regime admitted to arresting only half that number.
On the ninth day of the uprising, Tabriz residents turned the football match between the Tabriz Tractorsazi team and Tehran Esteqlal team to the scene of hatred against the mullahs’ regime. During the match, the crowd at the stadium chanted, “Feel shame Khameini, Let go of the country”, “Villain, Villain, cowardly Bassiji”, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life (only) for Iran.” The people also chanted slogans in Turkish such as “Azerbaijan people do not accept humiliation.”
The mullahs’ regime cut off the Internet inside the stadium. The regime’s radio-television, which was broadcasting the match, stopped live broadcast when the people repeated the slogans. By throwing smoke grenades, the youth protested the TV for not broadcasting their voice. On their way back from the stadium, people chanted “Death on Khamenei.” The riot police had stationed water-cannon trucks on their path, and a helicopter was continually flying over the people who were coming out of the stadium.
This massive demonstration took place despite the fact that the repressive forces had set up check points along the roads from Khoy, Urumia and Ardabil to Tabriz. They threatened the passengers in Ardebil and Urmia buses going to Tabriz to watch the match, and seized cell phones of some of them. At the entrance to the Sahand Stadium, the repressive forces had an intense presence, and by limiting the number of entrance doors and threatening the crowd, they tried to prevent the people from chanting slogans.
Hesamodin Ashna, President Hassan al-Rouhani’s adviser, recently criticized the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for saying that the protests were over.
“CNN and other media outlets largely covered the Revolutionary Guard leader’s statements, and this is not in the favor of Iran’s reputation, as it is known that the authority to speak on protests lies with the police and is announced through the interior ministry only, not the Revolutionary Guard which has more serious responsibilities.”
Meanwhile, in their first official reaction to the uprising, the National Trust Party headed by Mehdi Karroubi who has been under house arrest for seven years, blamed the protests on the regime.
“Those in power should know that violent confrontation with demonstrators will have more negative consequences and that problems must be resolved through constructive dialogue between the government and demonstrators. The problem will not be solved by imprisonment, house arrest and violence,” the party said in a statement.
Many Iranian celebrities have also voiced their support of the uprising. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a well-known Iranian film director said in a statement on Thursday, “The violence imposed by Khamenei on the protesting youth through his religious oppression and by both the reformists and the benevolent conservatives is apparent.” A number of other celebrities including famous singer Googoosh, Dariush Eghbali, Mahnaz Afshar, Taraneh Alidoosti and several others also voiced their support for the anti-regime demonstrations.