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Screengrab of video posted by Kurdish human rights group Hengaw, purportedly showing a crowd protesting at the cemetery in Saqqez, Iran, where Mahsa Amini is buried (26 October 2022)Image source, Hengaw

Image caption,

Videos posted online by Kurdish activists showed people protesting at the Aichi cemetery in Saqqez

A large crowd has protested at the cemetery in north-western Iran where Mahsa Amini is buried, as activists called for demonstrations to mark 40 days since her death in police custody.

Videos posted online showed that hundreds of men and women defied security forces to gather in Saqqez.

They were heard shouting “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”.

They are two of the signature chants of the anti-government unrest that has swept across Iran since Ms Amini died.

The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was detained by the morality police in the capital, Tehran, on 13 September for allegedly wearing her hijab “improperly”.

She fell into a coma after collapsing at a detention centre and died three days later. There were reports that officers beat her on the head with a baton and banged her head against a vehicle, but the police denied that she was mistreated and that said she suffered a heart attack.

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The BBC has mapped how the death of Mahsa Amini sparked widespread unrest in Iran

Many Iranians were enraged and the first protests took place after Ms Amini’s funeral in Saqqez, when women ripped off their headscarves in solidarity. The protests spread quickly and evolved into one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

Women have been at the forefront, defiantly waving their headscarves in the air, setting them on fire and even cutting their hair in public.

Schoolgirls have also been demonstrating in playgrounds and on the streets in an unprecedented show of support.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights says at least 234 protesters, including 29 children, have been killed by security forces in a violent crackdown on what Iran’s leaders have portrayed as “riots” fomented by foreign enemies.

Riot police and members of the paramilitary Basij Resistance Force were reportedly deployed in large numbers in Saqqez and other parts of Kurdistan province on Wednesday, in anticipation of fresh unrest on the 40th day of mourning for Ms Amini – a culturally significant occasion for Iranians.

However, videos showed that residents were able to bypass the roadblocks on foot and reach the Aichi cemetery.

Image source, Hengaw

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Kurdish rights group Hengaw posted a video showing what it said was a large number of people walking to the cemetery

“They tried to stop us from entering the cemetery… but I managed to get in,” Reuters news agency quoted a witness as saying.

Kurdish human rights group Hengaw, which is also based in Norway, posted several videos that it said showed a large crowd shouting “Down with traitors” and “Kurdistan, Kurdistan, the fascists’ graveyard”.

In another clip, men and women were seen waving scarves and shouting “Freedom, freedom, freedom”.

It was not clear whether members of Ms Amini’s family were at the cemetery. Activists said security forces had warned them not to hold a mourning ceremony and had threatened the safety of their son.

State news agency Irna, meanwhile, cited what it claimed was a statement from the family saying that they would not hold an event in order to avoid “unfortunate issues”. But a source close to the family told the BBC they had written no such message.

Kurdistan Governor Esmail Zarei Koosha said the situation in Saqqez was calm on Wednesday and denied that roads 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 was quoted as saying by Irna.

Authorities closed all schools and universities in the province “because of a wave of influenza”, according to state media.

Opposition activist collective 1500tasvir said protests were also held on Wednesday at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, as well as at universities in Tehran, the north-eastern city of Mashhad and in Ahvaz, in the south-west.