The aftermath of the collapse of a part Metropol Twin Towers in the southwestern city of Abadan  (May 2022)

The aftermath of the collapse of a part Metropol Twin Towers in the southwestern city of Abadan

Thousands Protest In Southern Iran, Chant Against Supreme Leader


Thousands held anti-government protests Thursday in Abadan where a building collapse Monday has claimed 24 lives so far, and chanted against the Supreme Leader.

Despite the government disrupting Internet connectivity, social media users have posted several videos showing a very large crowd in Abadan chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei such as “Death to Khamenei”, “Shame on You Khamenei, Leave the Country Alone”, and “Khamenei Is a Murderer, His Rule Is Illegitimate”.

Protesters also chanted against the Revolutionary Guard’s Basij militia telling them to “get lost’ and the state run broadcaster which is accused of biased reporting and censorship of the news related to the collapse of the building.

There are also videos on social media showing protests and mourning rallies in Khorramshahr, a major port city very close to Abadan, Behbahan which is also in Khuzestan Province, Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan Province, and Shahin Shahr in the central Esfahan Province, where many Khuzestani refugees of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) still live.

But Khuzestan is the heart of Iran's oil industry and further unrest could have economic consequences for the government.

Many are angry that in his meeting with lawmakers Wednesday, Khamenei did not express condolences to the families of the victims or mention the tragedy that had happened two days earlier.

In a message Thursday which was read in a meeting chaired by President Ebrahim Raeisi, he called the incident “sorrowful” and called for the rescue operation to be accelerated and the casualty toll minimized, thanked government officials, and extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

“The unfortunate incident in Abadan, in addition to the need for expediting action and the use of all capacities to reduce casualties, which is now of paramount importance, lays the responsibility with all of us — the officials of the country — to pursue the culprits of the incident and to give exemplary punishment to them with the cooperation of the judiciary, as well as to make a concerted effort to prevent its recurrence in all parts of the country,” he said in his message.

But this for many is too little and too late, as they increasingly see the government to be incabable and the ruling elite self-centered.

Videos on social media also show angry protesters on Thursday evening torching the shop of the father of the owner of the building, Hossein Abdolbaghi. Locals are highly skeptical of authorities' claim that Abdolbaghi died in the collapse and accuse them of a cover up. There is also a video showing protesters trying to break the gate of Abadan’s municipality while chanting slogans against Khamenei.

Vice President Mohammad Mokhber and Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi visited the site Friday morning. The governor of Abadan, Ehsan Abbaspour, told reporters that the death toll has now reached 24. He also warned about the collapse of the rest of the building and urged locals who have refused to leave the site to return to their homes.

Residents fear that authorities may end the rescue operations and say the strong odor rising from the rubble means more bodies are trapped and need to be pulled out.

The global Internet freedom watchdog NetBlocks on Friday confirmed a disruption across Iran with high impact to fixed-line services and said backbone gateway provider Telecommunications Infrastructures Company (TIC) has reported overnight maintenance work in progress at its central datacenters.

Many social media users, however, are suspicious of the timing of the maintenance work and say the disruption was a preventative measure against protesters communicating and spreading the message of protests to the rest of the country.

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