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Overwhelming Police Presence And Arrests In Iran Prevent Mass Protests

Grave of Pouya Bakhtiari, in Beheshe Sakineh Cemetery. He was shot to death in November protests in the town of Karaj, west of Tehran, December 26, 2019.
Grave of Pouya Bakhtiari, in Beheshe Sakineh Cemetery. He was shot to death in November protests in the town of Karaj, west of Tehran, December 26, 2019.

Reports received from Iran say dozens of people among those who visited cemeteries in remembrance of protesters killed in November were arrested on December 26.

Families of victims, activists and protesters declared December 26, which coincides with the 40th day of the killing of Pouya Bakhtiari, a young protester shot in the head on November 16 and many others killed across the country, as a day to commemorate the victims of the November protests across Iran.

Since last night, security forces were swarming the streets in many cities and towns to intimidate people from gathering, fearing a new round of protests.

On Thursday, this show of force was more evident in many places.

It is not clear how many people were arrested at the Behesht-e Sakineh cemetery near Tehran where Pouya Bakhtiari is buried but a video posted from the cemetery shows a group of people chanting slogans against Khamenei and called him "a murderer".

Arrests taking place in Behesht Sakineh Cemetery, Dec. 26

Pouya Bakhtiari's grandmother sent a video to activists abroad saying that security personnel did not allow her to approach her grandson's grave for saying a prayer and she saw agents beating up people who wanted to get close to the tomb.

Meanwhile, a group of prominent movie directors including Jafar Panahi visited Behesht-e Sakineh cemetery as a sign of defiance but were not detained.

Security forces were present all over the cemetery, with armored vehicles and water cannons. The entrance was guarded by three busloads of plainclothesmen and Basij (Baseej) paramilitary forces. Eventually people were dispersed.

Special riot police on motorbikes and masked men patrolled many parts of Tehran. Certain thoroughfares were packed by security forces, to prevent any gathering of protesters, who in November had started their action by blocking major roads.

The same kind of overwhelming police presence was evident in Isfahan, Shiraz, Ahwaz and in many other cities where large protests took place in November. In many smaller towns and villages, however, many people gathered in cemeteries and mourned the slain protesters.

Heavy police presence in Isfahan

Thanks to his outspoken and brave family the 27-year-old Pouya has turned into an icon of the November protests. His parents and several of his relatives including an 11-year-old cousin were arrested on December 24 for refusing to accept the demands of the security officials not to hold a public 40th day memorial for Pouya at his graveside.

Partial internet service interruptions by the authorities continued on Thursday to reduce the chance of people coordinating their actions on social media and also sending of photos and videos abroad. Nevertheless, many images were uploaded on social media.

However, Internet connectivity worsened late on Thursday. Netblocks reported that 95 percent of traffic in Iran is down. This comes despite the fact that authorities were able to prevent mass protests. According to global Internet watchdog Netblocks mobile connectivity had dropped to 5 percent in the evening.

Heavy presence of security forces in Andimeshk, in the oil-rich Khuzestan province.