Memorial services for several protesters killed by security forces turned into new protests in several Iranian cities Thursday, including in the capital Tehran.
“This blossom killed in the bud was an offering to the homeland”, a large crowd of protesters who gathered around Hamidreza Rouhi’s grave at Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery in the south of Tehran chanted Thursday afternoon.
Rouhi, a university student who also had a modeling career since childhood, was shot dead near his home in Shahr-e Ziba neighborhood in the west of the capital on November 18. Thursday was the 40th day after his death, when Iranians hold a memorial.
Later, protesters began chanting against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who they believe has ordered the killing of protesters. “Down with the Dictator”, video footage shows hundreds of protesters chanting. A new slogan was also heard against Khamenei: This homeland will not thrive before he is wrapped in a shroud.
“Poverty, corruption, high cost of living, We will continue until the toppling [of the regime]”, people began chanting as the crowd grew even larger. Security forces used tear gas against the protestersat Behesht-e Zahra, who burned trash cans to neutralize the gas. Government forces also reportedly fired shotgun pellets at them, and shut the gates to prevent more people from joining those already inside.
Behesht-e Zahra, a massive cemetery spread over an area of 1,320 acres, and other cemeteries in Iran are generally very busy on Thursdays as people traditionally visit the graves of their loved ones. Many visitors may have joined in the protest when they heard the chanting.
Several hours later, after darkness fell, people reported on social mediathat protesters were still chanting inside the cemetery and traffic on the road outside had come to a standstill by honking cars.
All this happened in the absence of Hamidreza’s parents who security forces did not allow to leave their home to attend their son’s memorial. Many later went to Hamidreza’s neighborhood as a gesture of support for his parents.
Security forces have repeatedly attacked funerals and memorial services in the past three months, used tear gas, and even fired at participants fatally including on November 20 when they killed Heydar Mahali at the funeral of the 16-year-old Karvan Ghader-Shukri in Piranshahr.
The 40th day after one’s death carries immense religious and cultural significance in Iran where memorials are held on days three, seven, and forty after death. There is also a historical parallel in the events leading to the 1979 revolution when 40th day memorials invigorated the revolutionaries and their protests.
State media initially claimed that Hamidreza was a member of the Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guards, blamed protesters for his killing, and called him a “martyr” as in the case of several other protesters.
They had to admit later that he was a protester after his friends exposed the lie by posting photos of him on social media showing him protesting and chanting.
“They killed Hamidreza and claimed him as a Basiji”, mourners chanted at his memorial service at Behesht-e Zahra three days after his death.
Thousands also attended the 40th day memorials of several other protesters in other cities.
In Samirom in Esfahan Province Thursday, thousands of chanting people marched on a dirt track in the snowy countryside to a cemetery where Ali Abbasi (25) who was shot dead by security forces is buried.
Other memorial services included those of Mohsen Niazi (32) in Dehgolan in Kermanshah Province; Reza Shariati(25), Milad Saeedianjoo (age not known) and Sepehr Maghsoudi (14) in the restive southern city of Izeh in Khuzestan; Arman Emadi (27) in Marvdasht in Fars Province; Javad Mousavi, also a young man, in Khorasgan in Esfahan Province; as well as Atefeh Na’ami (37) in Ahvaz in Khuzestan Province who authorities claim committed suicide in her apartment in Karaj. Participants chanted anti-government slogans at most of these memorial services too.
With a video showing a large crowd chanting against Khamenei at Rouhi’s memorial, one tweeter user, presumably addressing those who claim that street protests have lost their momentum and will eventually subside, asked: “Who was afraid of this revolution coming to a halt?’