- Protesters are calling for an economic boycott Monday through Wednesday
- Raisi visits Tehran University on Wednesday for Student Day
- The Ministry of the Interior is silent on the status of the vice squad
DUBAI, Dec. 4 (Reuters) – Protesters in Iran on Sunday called for a three-day strike this week, ramping up pressure on authorities after the state prosecutor said the vice squad whose detention of a young woman sparked months of protests had been closed .
There was no confirmation of the closure of the interior ministry, which is in charge of the morality police, and Iranian state media said prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was not responsible for overseeing the police.
Top Iranian officials have repeatedly said Tehran will not change the Islamic Republic’s mandatory headscarf policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarves, despite 11 weeks of protests against strict Islamic regulations.
Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest that erupted in September following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman detained by vice squad for violating hijab rules.
Demonstrators seeking to continue their challenge to Iran’s clerical rulers have called for a three-day economic strike and a rally in Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square on Wednesday, according to individual posts shared on Twitter by accounts unverified by Reuters .
President Ebrahim Raisi will address students in Tehran on the same day on the occasion of the Students’ Day in Iran.
Similar calls for strike action and mass mobilization have led to an escalation in unrest in recent weeks that has engulfed the country – some of the largest anti-government protests since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The activist news agency HRANA said 470 protesters had been killed on Saturday, including 64 minors. It said 18,210 protesters were arrested and 61 members of the security forces were killed.
Iran’s interior ministry’s state security council said on Saturday that the death toll was 200, according to the judiciary’s Mizan news agency.
Residents posting on social media and newspapers such as Shargh Daily say there have been fewer morality police sightings on the streets in recent weeks as authorities apparently try to avoid sparking more protests.
On Saturday, Montazeri was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Labor News Agency as saying the vice squad had been disbanded.
“The same authority that created this police force closed it down,” he said. He said the morality police were not under the authority of the judiciary, which “continues to monitor community-level behavioral actions.”
Al Alam state television said foreign media portrayed his remarks as “a retreat on the part of the Islamic Republic from its stance on hijab and religious morality as a result of the protests,” but that the only thing that could be gleaned from his remarks, was that the vice squad was not directly related to the judiciary.
According to state media, four men convicted of collaborating with the Israeli spy agency Mossad were executed on Sunday.
They had been arrested in June – before the current unrest swept the country – after cooperation between the intelligence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards, the Tasnim news agency reported.
The Islamic Republic has long accused archenemy Israel of conducting covert operations on its territory. Tehran recently accused Israeli and Western intelligence agencies of plotting a civil war in Iran.
The Prime Minister’s office in Israel, which oversees Mossad, declined to comment.
Iranian state media reported on Wednesday that the country’s Supreme Court had upheld the four men’s death sentences “for the crime of collaborating with the intelligence services of the Zionist regime and for kidnapping.”
Three other people received prison terms of between five and 10 years after being convicted of crimes including acting against national security, aiding kidnapping and possessing illegal weapons, the Mehr news agency said.
Reporting by Dubai Newsroom Edited by Dominic Evans, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean and Susan Fenton
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