Death toll doubles, 739 arrested in ‘harrowing’ Iran protest crackdown

Published September 25, 2022
Erbil (Iraq): People take part in a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in front of the United Nations office here on Saturday.—Reuters
Erbil (Iraq): People take part in a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in front of the United Nations office here on Saturday.—Reuters

PARIS: The official death toll has nearly doubled to 35 in a crackdown by Iran’s security forces on more than a week of protests that erupted after the death of a young woman in custody.

Hundreds of angry demonstrators have been arrested with crowds taking to the streets of major cities across Iran for eight straight nights since the death of Masha Amini.

The 22-year-old Kurd was pronounced dead after spending three days in a coma following her arrest by Iran’s feared morality police for wearing the hijab headscarf in an “improper” way.

State television said the number of deaths in “recent riots” had risen to 35, up from 17 previously, including at least five security personnel.

Sweeping arrests have been reported, with the police chief in the northwestern province of Guilan announcing “the arrest of 739 rioters including 60 women” in his region alone, Tasnim news agency said.

Protests were held around the Islamic republic on Friday night, with online videos showing some turning violent, including in Tehran. Footage showed security forces firing what appeared to be live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators in the northwestern cities of Piranshahr, Mahabad and Urmia.

In a video shared by the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights non-governmental organisation, a uniformed member of the security forces is seen shooting an AK-47 assault rifle at protesters in Shahr-e Rey, on Tehran’s southern outskirts.

Security forces have carried out a wave of arrests of activists and journalists, with Sherif Mansour of US-based media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reporting 11 had been detained since Monday.

They include Niloufar Hamedi of the reformist newspaper Shargh, who reported on Amini’s death.

Attack on Iranian militants in Iraq

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched an artillery attack on Iranian militant opposition bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Saturday, Iranian state television reported.

“Headquarters of anti-Iranian terrorists” based in northern Iraq were targeted by the Guards, state TV said, in reference to Kurdish rebel groups based there.

Iran has blamed armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of involvement in ongoing unrest in the country, particularly in the northwest where most of Iran’s up to 10 million Kurds live.

“These operations ... will continue in order to ensure viable border security, punish criminal terrorists and hold officials (of the Kurdish Regional Government) accountable towards international regulations and their legal duties,” the Guards said in a televised statement.

Iranian officials have often called on the KRG to curb the activities of Iranian Kurdish groups in the area. They also say Israeli agents are based in the region, which is denied by KRG.

Iran has repeatedly targeted Kurdish rebel groups in Iraq’s Kurdish region. There have been frequent clashes in the remote and mountainous border region between Iranian security forces and militant groups opposed to the Tehran government.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022

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