Sunni worshippers took to the streets for the 14th week in Zahedan after Friday prayers during which the popular cleric Abdolhamid delivered another fiery sermon.

“Whether facing gallows or prison, we will stand firm until the end!” a video posted on twitter shows protesters in Zahedan, capital of the southwestern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, chanting. In another video they are seen chanting “Down with the executioner Republic!”

Two young Baluch protesters, Mansour Dehmardeh and Ebrahim Narouei, were sentenced to death on charges of “corruption on earth” Tuesday. According to the Baluch Activists Campaign (BAC), a rights group, the 22-year-old Dehmardeh who has physical disabilities has also been brutally tortured in detention.

Videos also show protesters chanting against the newly appointed governor of the province. “We don’t want a Daish-i governor!” Brigadier General Mohammad Karami, the former commander of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) ground forces in the region, was recently appointed as governor in the restive province.

In his sermon this Friday, Mowlavi Abdolhamid protested to the “mass arrests on the streets” in the Sunni-majority province and accused the authorities of torturing detainees until they accept crimes that they never committed. “The Sharia does not sanction forced confessions which the Constitution does not endorse either,” he said while demanding the release of all detainees.

People in Zahedan carrying placards. One message says, "Oppression cannot last"

“You have put [protesters] in prison, executed them, and the problem was not solved with these executions, imprisonments and heavy sentencing … Listen to the voice of the people if you want to solve the problems,” he told the authorities.

IRGC-affiliated Fars news website quickly responded to Abdolhamid, publishing remarks by conservative regime insider Javad Larijani, brother of former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who harshly attacked the Sunni cleric.

“It is about time for the revolutionary forces to set aside niceties with Abdolhamid. He cannot be in Iran and say we are Iranians, but pursue the policies of Iran’s enemies,” Larijani said.

Abdolhamid, officially known as Mowlana Abdolhamid Esmail-Zehi, also noted the anniversary of the Revolutionary Guards downing a Ukrainian commercial flight over Tehran with missiles on January 8, 2020, that killed all 176 onboard. “The government was definitely responsible for this tragedy but did not accept its fault. You weren’t honest with the people,” he said.

“The strength of the system does not ensue from nuclear weapons or military [power]… Strength comes from accepting faults and carrying out justice,” Abdolhamid told the thousands who had gathered at Jameh Mosque of Makki in Zahedan to pray and to take part in the weekly protests that have been held regularly after the Friday prayers since September 30.

The crackdown on protesters on September 30 during which 90-96 Baluch worshippers including children were killed and around 300 were injured has come to be known as the “Bloody Friday of Zahedan”.

Local sources say the IRGC and other security forces set up check points in some areas of Zahedan on Friday to stop the flow of people to the prayers and arrested at least nine youths after the prayers. According to Halvash, a website dedicated to news in the province, the outspoken Abdolhamid has been under pressure from intelligence and security organizations to stop his popular Friday prayers and fiery sermons.

Local sources also say security forces arrested tens of Baluch residents, including teenagers, ahead of this week’s Friday prayers. Some activist groups such as BAC put the number of detainees in the past few days at “hundreds”.

Many of the detainees have been accused of “hooliganism” or connections with foreign countries and “a terrorist group”, presumably the militant Jaish ul-Adl which has a history of deadly operations in the southwestern Sistan and Baluchestan province.

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