The deaths of children in protests in Iran are fueling anger among protesters

Mourners gathered on Friday for the funeral of a 9-year-old Iranian boy who was shot dead during one of the protests that have rocked the country, and chanted the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei amid anger over the deaths of dozens of children who were involved in growing demonstrations.

In a protest movement made up mostly of young people, the presence of minors at demonstrations is common, especially teenagers, who have fueled the movement with actions in schools. Of the 381 protesters killed, according to human rights groups, at least 57 were minors.

Activists and the families of the victims said their deaths added to the anger of the protesters, rather than fueling fear.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of nine-year-old Kian Pirfalak, who was killed during a protest on Wednesday, in the southwestern city of Izeh on Friday.

Kian’s mother told mourners her son was in a car with her father when they approached a large crowd and a heavy police presence on Wednesday night.

“They then drew their guns and sprayed bullets at our car,” she said in footage of the eulogy posted to social media. She said her husband was injured in the shooting and is in hospital, where authorities are also holding him.

WSJ’s Shelby Holliday breaks down the history and symbolism behind three key issues emerging from recent protests in Iran. Photocomposite: Noah Friedman

At the boy’s funeral on Friday, mourners chanted “Death to Khamenei,” unpopular in Khuzestan province, where a Sunni Arab minority has often complained of discrimination at the hands of the Shia Persian majority. The mourners also attacked the Islamic Revolutionary Guard paramilitary corps.

The Iranian government says seven people died in Izeh on Wednesday, blaming a terrorist attack for the deaths of Kian and others. The government said two gunmen on motorcycles attacked security forces with Kalashnikov rifles. Authorities on Friday held a separate funeral for the people they said were killed in the attack.

Kian’s mother said it was the police who killed her son, unarmed men on motorcycles.

Both the IRGC and opposition groups circulated a video showing Kian playing with a miniature handmade boat, but for different reasons – the IRGC to rouse sympathy for the victims of a terrorist attack and the opposition to express outrage at the killing of children by government forces to create.

Kian’s death has also been the subject of international calls for protest, with Hamed Esmaeilion, an Iranian-Canadian who has played a key role in anti-government demonstrations abroad, calling for demonstrations on Saturday.

A 14-year-old child was killed during protests in Izeh on Wednesday, according to the Free Union of Iranian Workers, a union federation, and other opposition websites.

Nationwide protests have swept the country for two months since the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly flouting Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. The protests have shifted from calls for the end of the compulsory headscarf, or hijab, to calls for the end of Islamic rule.

The use of deadly force, particularly in remote provinces populated by ethnic minorities, has taken a toll on minors. At least 10 children were killed on an afternoon on September 30 when security forces fired live ammunition at a crowd in Zahedan, eastern Iran, according to the human rights organization Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, protesters have also escalated their attacks on symbols of Islamic rule in recent days. On Thursday, protesters set fire to the old family home of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s former supreme leader and founder of the Islamic Republic.

Videos verified by Storyful, which is owned by News Corp, the Wall Street Journal’s parent company, show protesters marching by as a fire burns at the house-turned-museum in the city of Khomein.

write to Benoit Faucon at [email protected]

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