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Iran mourners flock to Mahsa Amini grave despite crackdown

The death of Mahsa Amini in police custody has triggered a wave of bloody protests in Iran
— Paris (AFP)

Iranian mourners gathered Wednesday at the grave of Mahsa Amini to mark 40 days since her death, defying heightened security measures as part of a bloody crackdown on women-led protests.

"Woman, life, freedom" and "Death to the dictator", dozens of men and women chanted at the Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Amini's home town in the western province of Kurdistan, in videos shared online.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16, three days after her arrest by the notorious morality police while visiting Tehran with her younger brother.

Anger flared at her funeral last month and quickly sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock the Islamic republic in almost three years. Young women and schoolgirls have led the charge, removing and burning their headscarves and confronting security forces on the street.

Mourners headed to her gravesite on Wednesday morning even though the security services had warned her family not to hold the ceremony, threatening that otherwise "they should worry for their son's life", according to activists.

Wednesday marks 40 days since Amini's death and the end of the traditional mourning period in Iran.

Images shared by the Hengaw rights group showed the heavy presence overnight of security forces in Saqez who reportedly shut off entrances to the city.

Despite that, dozens of people were seen streaming into the city in cars and on motorcycles, as well as on foot along roads and across open fields, in footage posted online by the Hengaw rights group.

- 'Graveyard of fascists' -

"Kurdistan, Kurdistan, the graveyard of fascists," a group of them were heard chanting, in another video shared by activists on Twitter. AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.

"The cities of Sanandaj, Saqez, Divandarreh, Marivan and Kamyaran are on widespread strike" in Kurdistan province, Hengaw said on Twitter.

The group, which monitors rights violations in Kurdistan, said Iranian football stars Ali Daei and Hamed Lak had travelled to Saqez "to take part in the 40th day funeral" and were staying at the Kurd Hotel.

But they "had been taken to the government guesthouse... under guard by the security forces", Hengaw said.

Daei has previously run into trouble with authorities over his online support for the Amini protests.

Unverified footage posted by Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) showed people gathering outside the Kurd Hotel in Saqqez "in their night protests".

Hammihan newspaper later quoted Kurdistan governor Esmail Zarei Koosha as saying that Daei and other celebrities were in Tehran, however, and that "everything is calm in Saqez".

IHR said the security forces' crackdown on the Amini protests has cost the lives of at least 141 demonstrators, in an updated death toll Tuesday.

Amnesty International says the crackdown has killed at least 23 children, while IHR said on Tuesday that at least 29 children have been slain.

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