Protests Erupt in Ahvaz After the Suspicious Death of an Anti-Regime Poet

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By The Free Iranian Staff
Hassan Heydari
Hassan Heydari

Large protests in Iran’s often-turbulent city of Ahvaz, in the south-western province of Khuzestan, have been ongoing for the past two days after a locally-beloved poet died mysteriously.

Hassan Heydari, an Arabic-language poet who achieved fame with his politically-themed and anti-regime poems that he published via his Instagram account, and read in private home gatherings, died early in the morning of Sunday, November 10th, in Ahvaz’s Shafa hospital. The 29-year old Heydari had been arrested and imprisoned several times, the most recent arrest occurring in August of last year. Heydari was still out on bail for that case. During his detention last year, eyewitness had reported that Heydari was severely beaten by the police.

Friends and family of the poet are claiming that he was assassinated by regime intelligence agents, and had been given a lethal injection of a stroke-inducing chemical. One of Heydari’s relatives said, “At first, Hassan felt as if he had been poisoned. We took him to the hospital at midnight, the nurses tried to help him, but then, he had a seizure this morning. His condition continued to deteriorate, and we were told that he died as a result of poisoning.” The relative added that Heydari had been in good health, and had no history of heart disease or other medical problems.

Reza Najafi, the police chief of Khuzestan province, for his part, claimed that the poet died of a “stroke or heart attack.”

Immediately after Heydari’s corpse was returned to his family, groups of the poet’s fans began gathering outside the Shafa hospital, demanding an explanation of how he died. The gatherings soon grew into a crowd, which began protesting down the streets of Ahvaz throughout the afternoon. Angrily, the demonstrators blocked roads, and set up barricades of burning tires. Protests also were held in the nearby cities of Shadegan and Kut Abdollah. Some protests turned violent, and gunfire was heard in videos of them that were uploaded on social media.

Despite the video documentation of Sunday’s events, the regime tried to deny that the demonstrations had happened, with a spokesman for the Khuzestan provincial administration bizarrely claiming that Heydari’s “friends had gathered to attend his funeral but some media presented it as a security issue out of ignorance of the traditions of Iranian Arabs in Khuzestan.” Saied Hajian, the Governor of Khuzestan, meanwhile, said that “small group of people” had protested, and police had brought the situation “under control.”

The protests endured through the night, however, and on Monday, in Ahvaz and Kut Abdollah, they grew bigger, as Heydari was buried. At one point, in Ahvaz, a large crowd pulled a regime flag down from its flag-post. Traffic in the city came to a complete standstill, and protestors were seen confronting and blocking convoys of security forces attempting to disperse them.

 

In their chanting, the Ahvazi protestors made a point to thank their fellow Iranians of all ethnicities such as Lors, Azeris, Kurds and Baluch Iranians for sharing their solidarity with them.

In addition to his poetry, Hassan Heydari had earned the respect and gratitude of his community through the disaster relief work he performed this March and April, after Iran was struck with devastating floods.

As mentioned by Amnesty International in their report to the United Nations a few days ago, the Khomeiniist regime routinely violates the human rights of Iran’s ethnic minorities, such as the ethnically-Arab Iranians of Ahvaz. Ahvazi socio-cultural and human rights activists are routinely imprisoned and executed. The city has also been suffering from economic and environmental problems.

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