Iranians seen setting fire to ancestral home of Islamic Republic founder Khomeini

Protesters in Iran have set on fire the ancestral home of the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, two months into the anti-regime protest movement, images showed on Friday.

The house in the city of Khomein in the western Markazi province was shown ablaze late Thursday with crowds of jubilant protesters marching past, according to images posted on social media, verified by AFP.

“This year is the year of blood,” some were heard chanting, according to a report by the Dubai-based Arab news outlet Al Arabiya, adding that current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “will be toppled.”

Khomeini is said to have been born at the house in the town of Khomein — from where his surname derives — at the turn of the century.

He became a cleric deeply critical of the US-backed shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, moved into exile but then returned in triumph from France in 1979 to lead the Islamic Revolution.

Khomeini died in 1989 but remains the subject of adulation by the clerical leadership under successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The house was eventually turned into a museum commemorating Khomeini. It was not immediately clear what damage it sustained.

The protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police, pose the biggest challenge from the street to Iran’s leaders since the 1979 revolution.

They were fueled by anger over the obligatory headscarf for women originally imposed by Khomeini but have turned into a movement calling for an end to the Islamic Republic itself.

Images of Khomeini have on occasion been torched or defaced by protesters, in taboo-breaking acts against a figure whose death is still marked each June with a holiday for mourning.

On Friday protesters chanted anti-regime slogans at the funeral of a young boy whose family says was killed by security forces, a rights group and monitors said.

Hundreds flocked to the city of Izeh in southwestern Iran for the funeral of Kian Pirfalak, aged nine or 10 according to activists, footage posted by the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) and monitor 1500tasvir showed.

His mother told the funeral ceremony that Kian was shot on Wednesday by the security forces although Iranian officials have insisted he was killed in a “terrorist” attack carried out by an extremist group.

“Hear it from me myself on how the shooting happened, so they can’t say it was by terrorists because they’re lying,” his mother told the funeral according to a video posted by 1500tasvir.

“Maybe they thought we wanted to shoot or something and they peppered the car with bullets… Plainclothes forces shot my child. That is it.”

Ridiculating the official version of events, the protesters chanted: “Basij, Sepah — you are our ISIS!” according to a video posted by IHR.

The Basij is a pro-government paramilitary force and Sepah is another name for Iran’s feared Revolutionary Guards. ISIS is an alternative name for the Islamic State group.

“Death to Khamenei,” they shouted in another video posted by 1500tasvir.

Opposition media based outside of Iran said that another minor, Sepehr Maghsoudi, 14, was also shot dead in similar circumstances in Izeh on Wednesday.

Funerals have repeatedly become flashpoints for protests.

Demonstrators were renewed in at least 23 cities across the country on Thursday, according to Arab media.

Reports said five Iranian security personnel were killed during Thursday’s protests.

Video footage seemed to show protesters damaging other symbols of the Islamic Republic across the country, namely the Qom Seminary located in the city of Qom. Established in 1922, it is the most prominent Islamic seminary in Iran.

Unlike demonstrations in November 2019, the recent protests have been nationwide, spread across social classes, universities, the streets and even schools, with no sign of letting up.

On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian accused Israel and Western intelligence agencies of trying to foment civil war.

“Multiple security services, Israel and some Western politicians who have made plans for civil war, destruction and the disintegration of Iran, should know that Iran is not Libya or Sudan,” he said, without providing evidence.

Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)

According to Iran Human Rights (IHR), a Norway-based organization, at least 342 people have been killed in the violent crackdown on Iranian protesters as of November 16. That figure includes women and at least 43 children.

Earlier this week, Iran’s judiciary said it issued its second death sentence over the anti-government protests.

The accused was charged with “setting fire to a government building, disturbing public order, assembly and conspiracy to commit a crime against national security,” as well as for being “an enemy of God and corruption on earth.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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