Iranians protest at funeral of child killed in shooting

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A large anti-government demonstration erupted in Iran Friday at the funeral of a child killed in a shooting his mother blamed on security forces. It is the latest in a wave of protests that have broken out across the country over the past two months.

Videos circulating on social media show hundreds of protesters at the funeral of 9-year-old Kian Pirfalak in the southwestern city of Izeh. Protests also erupted in the eastern city of Zahedan, where the deadliest violence has occurred since the nationwide protests began.

The protests first erupted after the death on September 16 of a 22-year-old woman who was being held by the country’s morality police. They quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s ruling clerics and an end to the theocracy created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Authorities have severely restricted media access and periodically shut down the Internet as they struggle to contain the biggest challenge to their leadership in more than a decade, making it difficult to confirm details of unrest in various parts of the country.

State media in Iran reported that seven people were killed and several wounded, including security forces, in a shooting in Izeh on Wednesday. Authorities blamed the attack on “terrorists” without giving further details.

Among the victims was Pirfalak. His mother, Zeinab Molai, said security forces stopped the family in their car and told them to move away for their own safety because of a protest nearby. When they turned around, security forces opened fire on the vehicle, he said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

State media had initially reported that a young girl had been killed, but later amended those reports. Fars reported that 11 people were arrested in connection with the Izeh shooting, which Iranian officials say is under investigation.

Dozens of protesters had gathered in various parts of Izeh at the time of the attack, shouting anti-government slogans and throwing stones at police, who fired tear gas to disperse them, state media reported at the time. Protesters also set fire to a Shiite religious seminary in Izeh.

Violence has erupted around some of the protests as security forces have cracked down on dissenters. Iran has also seen a string of recent attacks blamed on separatists and religious extremists, including a shooting at a major Shiite shrine last month that killed more than a dozen people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Iranian officials have tried to link the attacks to the protests and blame all the unrest on hostile foreign actors, without providing evidence. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of repression by a clerical establishment they see as corrupt and dictatorial.

At least 388 people have been killed and more than 16,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the unrest. It says at least 53 members of the security forces have been killed.

Rights groups have accused security forces of firing live ammunition and birdshot at protesters and beating them with batons, violence captured in several videos circulating online.

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