Gunmen attacked the second holiest site in Iran on Wednesday, the Shahecheragh funerary monument and mosque in the city of Shiraz, killing at least 15 people and wounding 40, reported Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.
Officials arrested two of the gunmen, while a third is on the lam, according to the official website of the Iranian judiciary.
Late on Wednesday, the Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, via its Amaq News Agency. Other Iranian media reported that the attackers were foreign nationals but did not elaborate further.
“This evil will definitely not go unanswered,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said, promising the masterminds of the attack “a regretful and decisive response.”
Protesters in Iran are marking 40 days since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, while in the custody of the Iran’s Guidance Patrol, or “morality police.” The police had arrested Amini for not wearing her hijab – or headscarf – “properly” and blamed her death on a heart attack, but it is widely believed that she was beaten to death at a re-education center for women who violate the Islamic regime’s dress rules.
Deaths in Shiite Islam are commemorated 40 days later; and, in Amini’s Kurdish hometown of Saqqez, thousands of protesters flocked to her grave at the Aichi Cemetery to mark the date. The crowds expressed their support of the young woman, despite the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forcing Amini’s family to say that there would be no commemoration, according to investigative reporter Fazel Hawramy.
The semi-official ISNA news agency claimed that Iranian security forces fired pellets at protesters on the outskirts of Saqez, while the Kurdish Hengaw Organization for Human Rights said Iranian forces launched tear gas at the protestors.
The crowds at the commemoration chanted what has become a slogan of the current protests, “Woman, life, freedom,” and “Death to the dictator!” Women took off their headscarves and waved them in the air.
Amini’s death has sparked the most extensive protests against the Iranian regime in years, and they are still ongoing. Iranian forces have killed at least 215 protesters so far, including 27 children, while conducting mass arrests, according to the Iran Human Rights organization, which is based in Oslo.
According to the Hengaw human rights group, ever since student protests against the regime began in schools, Iran has cracked down hard on its students and now have even been kidnapping them in multiple cities.
“During the past few days, dozens of students have been kidnapped by Iranian security agencies in different cities, of which the Hengaw human rights organization has been able to verify the identity of 57 of them,” the organization wrote on Oct. 23.
“Based on the statistics registered in the statistics and documents center of Hengaw Human Rights Organization, in the past 35 days, at least 16 female Kurdish students and 41 male Kurdish students have been kidnapped by the Iranian security institutions,” the group stated. “It is worth mentioning that 16-year-old Nima Shafiqdoost from Selmas, West Azerbaijan (Urmia), was one of the children who was kidnapped by the security forces while he was severely injured and died after a few days in custody.”
Hengaw stated it believes that more than 150 Kurdish students have been kidnapped by Iranian security forces; internet outages and pressure on the families of the kidnapped children have quashed access to more information.
Despite the enormous risks, Iranians’ protests are getting still bolder.
“I am in awe. These unarmed men and women walking towards security forces, one by one they open up their arms and shout: ‘We are not scared of bullets; kill us.’ This is Amol city where dozens of protesters got killed over the past months,” exiled Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad reported on social media on Wednesday.
Alinejad, on Thursday, said that Iranian university students are now fighting gender segregation in cafeterias at numerous Iranian universities, where men and women are not allowed to eat together. Where guards do not allow the students to mix in the cafeterias, students dine together outside instead.