Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Iranians mourn building collapse victims as protests continue

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Iranians held mourning ceremonies on Wednesday for the 37 people killed in a building collapse in southwestern Iran, as authorities sought to quell week-long protests over the disaster.

Officials announced the latest death toll and said another 37 people had been injured in the May 23 collapse of the 10-storey residential and commercial building in Abadan in the oil-producing region of Khuzestan.

Videos posted on social media showed a heavy security force presence in Abadan as the mourning ceremonies took place.

Demonstrators set fire to tyres and blocked roads in the nearby town of Shadegan. Reuters could not independently authenticate the video footage.

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Authorities have blamed the collapse of the Metropol Building on local corruption and lax safety saying 13 people, including mayors and other officials, have so far been arrested for construction violations.

Protesters, however, say the disaster stemmed from government negligence and entrenched graft and have chanted slogans against officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Police have used teargas and fired shots in the air to disperse crowds and have clashed with demonstrators during the protests.

Authorities have also been warning filmmakers and actors not to side with the protesters, social media posts showed on Wednesday.

An award-winning dissident director Mohammad Rasoulof said authorities were putting pressure on dozens of actors and filmmakers to withdraw their signatures.

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Thousands of filmmakers had signed a statement that called on security forces suppressing the protests to “lay down your weapons and return to the nation’s embrace”.

“They have frightened some of the signatories by (threats of) arrest and told some that they can no longer work.

This was the state of freedom of expression in the Islamic Republic,” Rasoulof said on social media.

The protests erupted amid frustration over high food prices and economic problems as a deadlock in talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal dims expectations of quick relief from international sanctions.

Reuters/NAN

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