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Iran mourners flock to Mahsa Amini grave despite crackdown

Iran mourners flock to Mahsa Amini grave despite crackdown

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PARIS: Iranian mourners gathered Wednesday at the grave of Mahsa Amini to mark 40 days since her death, defying heightened security measures as part of a bloody crackdown on women-led protests, reports AFP.

Woman, life, freedom and Death to the dictator, hundreds of men and women chanted at the Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Amini's home town in the western province of Kurdistan, in videos shared online.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16, three days after her arrest by the notorious morality police for allegedly breaching the Islamic dress code for women while visiting Tehran with her younger brother.

Anger flared at her funeral last month and quickly sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock the Islamic republic in almost three years. Young women and schoolgirls have led the charge, burning their hijab headscarves and confronting security forces on the street.

Overnight, the authorities stepped up security measures in Saqez, deploying personnel in a central square as well as reportedly shutting off entrances to the city.

Despite that, mourners headed to her graveside early on Wednesday to mark 40 days since her death -- the end of the traditional mourning period in Iran.

They made their way in cars, on motorbikes, and on foot along a highway, through fields and even across a river, in videos shared online by activists and human rights groups.

Hundreds of mourners had gathered at the cemetery located eight kilometres (five miles) outside Saqez, in images that the Hengaw rights group told AFP it had verified.

This year is the year of blood, Seyed Ali will be toppled, a group of them chanted in a video verified by AFP, referring to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Kurdistan, Kurdistan, the graveyard of fascists, others were heard singing in another video shared by activists on Twitter. AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.

Hengaw, which monitors rights violations in Kurdistan, said strikes were underway in Saqez, Divandarreh, Marivan, Kamyaran and Sanandaj, as well as Javanrud and Ravansar in the western province of Kermanshah.

The Norway-based rights group said Iranian football stars Ali Daei and Hamed Lak had travelled to Saqez to take part in the 40th day funeral.

They had been staying at the Kurd Hotel but were taken to the government guesthouse... under guard by the security forces, it said.

Daei has previously run into trouble with authorities over his online support for the Amini protests.

Unverified footage posted by Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) showed people gathering outside the Kurd Hotel in Saqez to protest at night.

Kurdistan governor Esmail Zarei-Kousha said the situation in Saqez was calm on Wednesday morning and dismissed as completely false reports that roads into the city had been shut.

The enemy and its media... are trying to use the 40 day anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death as a pretext to cause new tensions, but fortunately, the situation in the province is completely stable, he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Iran's ISNA news agency said the ceremony took place in a calm atmosphere and that people had marched to her grave, including from nearby towns, without any tensions.

Hengaw said most of Saqez was empty on Wednesday morning as so many people had left the city to join the ceremony to commemorate Amini.

The 1500tasvir social media channel, which chronicles rights violations by Iran's security forces, said fresh protests were being held elsewhere on Wednesday, including at universities in Tehran, Mashhad in Iran's northeast and Ahvaz, in the southwest.

IHR said the security forces' crackdown on the Amini protests has cost the lives of at least 141 demonstrators, up from 122 previously, in an updated death toll Tuesday.

Amnesty International says the crackdown has killed at least 23 children, while IHR said on Tuesday that at least 29 children have been slain.

More than five weeks after Amini's death, the demonstrations show no signs of ending. They have been fuelled by public outrage over the crackdown that has claimed the lives of other young women and girls.

Iran's Forensic Organisation said in a report published this month that Amini's death was not caused by blows to the head and vital organs and limbs of the body.

But lawyers acting for Amini's family have rejected the findings and called for a re-examination of her death by another commission.