iranian protesters attack khomeinis childhood home as unrest spreads

The house where the Islamic revolution’s founder grew up was set on fire during a fresh surge of anger over the government’s killing of children, including three in the city of Izeh.

Three months into a nationwide uprising, Iranian protesters have turned their fury against the founder of the Islamic revolution and of the country’s theocracy, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Protesters set ablaze the museum of childhood home of Mr. Khomeini, who died in 1989, in his hometown, Khomein, on Thursday night, videos showed. Crowds of men smashed and stomped on a street sign bearing his name in the town of Khash, according to a video posted online. And parts of the Shia theology center where Mr. Khomeini nurtured the seeds of the revolution, in the city of Qom, were shown to be attacked and set on fire.

Despite a lethal crackdown and mass arrests by the authorities, Iranian demonstrators have maintained intense protests against the country’s theocratic rulers and domineering security forces for months now, in a movement that has cut across ethnic, class and political differences.

Women, in particular, have been at the forefront of the protests since their start in September, set off by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, while she was in the custody of the country’s morality police after supposed violations of Islamic dress restrictions.

In recent days, work stoppages and strikes have also become more widespread, in a sign of intensifying pressure on the government. In more than a dozen major cities, including the capital, Tehran, commerce came to a near halt on Friday for a fourth consecutive day, with shops shuttered and the traditional bazaars, the heart of trade, closed. Many Iranians joined the boycott this week by not shopping.

“This is a taboo-breaking moment,” said Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iran expert who teaches international relations at Columbia University, speaking of the attacks on Mr. Khomeini’s legacy and the shutting of bazaars and shops. “Whether this leads to toppling the regime or not, we have crossed a line of public discourse unlike ever before, and there is no going back to the way things were.”

Protests and clashes continued on Friday across the country as a fresh wave of anger erupted over the security forces’ targeting of children and teenagers. Videos posted on social media showed people chanting on streets and rooftops: “We don’t want a child-killing regime!”

Rights groups say that at least 50 minors have been killed since the uprising began in mid-September, and anywhere from 500 to 1,000 minors are thought to be in detention, often kept in cells with adults.

On Wednesday night, three children were among seven people shot and killed in the city of Izeh, an ethnically diverse hotbed of protests and clashes in the province of Khuzestan in the country’s southwest.

Kian Pirfalak, a 10-year-old boy, was killed as his family’s car came under automatic weapons fire, his mother said; and two 14-year-old boys, Artin Rahmani and Sepehr Maghsoudi, were shot dead at a demonstration, according to witnesses and a human rights group.

The funerals for Kian and Artin drew tens of thousands of attendees on Friday, with crowds pumping their fists and chanting in unison, “We will take Iran back!” and singing a war anthem, videos showed. Human rights groups said that Sepehr’s body had been taken by officials and was not available for the traditional immediate burial.

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The government claimed that terrorists had killed the civilians, including the three boys. The governor of Khuzestan Province was cited by Iranian media as saying that 11 people had been arrested in relation to the “terrorist attack.”

But families, rights groups and several Iranian politicians have refuted those claims, saying that it was security forces who opened fire at them. At Artin’s funeral, his mother was shown with her arms raised, screaming repeatedly, “death to the child-killing regime!”

Mahmoud Sadeghi, a former member of Parliament from a reform faction in Iran, tweeted that killing Kian and then denying the role of the security forces in the deaths “will only result in deepening the people’s hatred and lack of trust at official accounts and push the protests toward violence.”

Zeinab Molaei, Kian’s mother, delivered a passionate speech at her son’s funeral, saying her family had been on its way home when they encountered security forces in plainclothes.

One of the men shouted at them to turn their car around, and when they did, the group opened fire on the vehicle. Kian was killed with a bullet to his lungs, and his father was also hit with several bullets and is hospitalized, said Ms. Molaei, according to videos posted on social media.

“They riddled our car with bullets,” said Ms. Molaei, adding that she had opened the door to shout at the men, “Don’t shoot! We are a family with kids!”

After her son was killed, Ms. Molaei said the family took his body straight home, fearing that turning him over to the morgue could result in the security forces’ stealing his body and secretly burying it. Officials have been accused of that in at least one prominent, previous case, in the killing of Nika Shakarami, 16, in September.

Ms. Molaei said she borrowed blocks of ice from neighbors, and covered the boy’s body with them after laying him out on the carpet. Photos of Kian, and videos of his mother’s account of desperately trying to protect his body for a funeral, went viral and struck a nerve with many Iranians.

The widely circulated accounts of Kian’s life and death — including home videos showing him planting a tree, and dedicating the test run of a small boat he had built for the school science fair “in the name of the God of rainbows” — drew several prominent Iranian athletes and celebrities to condemn the government for killing children and to express solidarity with the Iranian people.

Mahtab Keramati, a well-known actress who was an ambassador for UNICEF in Iran, said in a public post that she would resign from the role as it had become clear that children could not be protected in Iran.

Another public figure in Iran, the political activist Pooyan Fakhraei, tweeted: “Why don’t you understand that your problem isn’t the protesters in the streets, it’s the masses who agree with them? It’s the growing defections within your own loyal constituents?”

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