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Spiritual Leader Of Iran's Sunni Muslims Calls For Referendum On Protesters' Demands

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda November 04, 2022

A top Sunni cleric in Iran has called for an immediate referendum with the presence of international observers to "change policies based on the wishes of the people."

In his Friday Prayers sermon on November 4 in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan, Molavi Abdulhamid Ismaeelzah asked the Qom seminary and the country's authorities to listen to the voices of the people who have been protesting for the past 50 days.

The cleric, who is known across the country as Molavi Abdolhamid, has previously called on the country's rulers to respond to the demands of the protesters.

There has been no comment from the Iranian government on his call for a referendum.

The cleric, regarded as a spiritual leader for Iran's Sunni Muslim population, is the director of main Sunni seminary in Iran. He is a vocal critic of the Iranian government and has been under pressure for his comments against the Islamic republic.

Earlier this month in his Friday Prayers sermon, he said senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were "responsible" for the killings in Zahedan on September 30.

At the same time, people in different cities of Sistan and Baluchistan Province demonstrated in the streets for the fifth consecutive week after the September 30 massacre in Zahedan.

According to the videos published on social media on November 4, the security forces shot directly at protesters in the city of Khash, near Zahedan.

Reports also indicate clashes and shooting at protesters in some other cities of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, including Saravan, Zahedan, and Iranshahr.

It was not possible to independently verify the social media posts and the reports of violence at protests across Iran.

Gatherings took place on November 3 in the cities of Tehran, Tabriz, Shiraz, Rasht, and many other cities of Kurdistan Province in western Iran.

According to the videos published on social media, in the central Iranian city of Arak hundreds of mourners gathered at the grave of Mehrshad Shahidinejad, a 19-year-old aspiring chef who reportedly was killed after being arrested during a protest.

Reports also indicate that on November 3 in the city of Isfahan state security forces fired tear gas as mourners gathered at the grave of Mahsa Mougoei, an 18-year-old woman who was killed on September 22 during the nationwide protests against the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

At least one woman was shot in Isfahan on November 3, a video published on Twitter indicates. The woman is shown on the ground with blood on her face, apparently shot in the head. The video also shows people trying to revive her. There's no report about her condition.

In the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, security agents prevented the memorial of late RFE/RL journalist Reza Haghighatnejad. People who had gone to the location of the ceremony protested the security agents' move, chanting slogans in memory of Haghighatnejad and in protest of the government.

Iranian authorities secretly buried Haghighatnejad on October 30 at a location near Shiraz after seizing his body upon repatriation to Iran, angering his family.

Meanwhile, domestic and international reactions to the suppression of protesters in Iran continue.

Iranian wrestling legend and Olympic gold medalist Rasoul Khadem addressed President Ebrahim Raisi on his Instagram account and criticized him for suppressing the protests.

Also, more than 100 professors at Tehran University protested the October 29 attack on the university in a statement describing the attack of the security forces on the students as "barbaric." The statement says the continuation of security approaches and actions such as the "terrible attack" of the plainclothes security forces on the university is disastrous.

The signatories said that all detained students should be released unconditionally.

The antigovernment protests have been met by a harsh crackdown that the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says has killed at least 277 people, including 40 children.

The Iranian government has not taken responsibility for the killing of protesters and in most cases has attributed their deaths to reasons such as suicide, illness, and accidents.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/sunni-cleric-referendum- protesters-demands-iran/32116312.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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