TEHRAN: Gunmen on Friday opened fire and hurled Molotov cocktails at a police station in southwestern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, state media reported.

“A number of police members as well as passers-by have been injured in the exchange of fire” in the provincial capital of Zahedan, state broadcaster said.

The province, bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, is often hit by attacks or clashes between security forces and armed groups, generally involving smuggling gangs as well as separatists or extremist groups.

In June, an Iranian border guard was killed in an “incident” at a border crossing with Afghanistan in the same province, Iran’s foreign ministry said at the time.

The latest unrest comes as protests have rocked the Islamic republic following the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of morality police.

Street violence

Iranian security forces opened fire on angry protesters as street violence sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini entered a third week on Friday, foreign-based opposition media reported.

“Death to the dictator,” bare-headed women chanted in the northwestern city of Ardabil, said Iran International, a Persian-language opposition television station based in London.

In the southwestern city of Ahvaz, security forces fired tear gas to disperse scores of people who streamed onto the streets jeering and shouting anti-government slogans, in another video shared by the channel.

Men braved gunfire as they stoned a police station in Zahedan, near Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan, other footage showed.

Amnesty International said Iran was intentionally using lethal force against the protesters, adding that without international action “beyond statements of condemnation” more people risk being killed.

“The Iranian authorities have mobilised their well-honed machinery of repression to ruthlessly crack down on nationwide protests in an attempt to thwart any challenge to their power,” it said.

Leading human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told US news magazine Time that she expected the protests to go on regardless of the intensity of the authorities’ crackdown.

“What the people want is regime change, and no return to the past,” said Sotoudeh, who is on medical furlough from a 38-year jail sentence for her advocacy work.

“And what we can see from the current protests and strikes that are now being initiated is a very real possibility of regime change.”

Outside forces

Amid protests, Iranian security forces intensified crackdown, arresting many journalists, activists and other prominent figures.

Former Iranian international footballer Hossein Maahini was arrested on Friday after supporting the protests on his social media accounts, state media said.

In a letter on Friday, Iranian football fans asked FIFA to ban their national team from this year’s World Cup in Qatar over the crackdown.

Iran has blamed outside forces for the protests, and on Wednesday it launched cross-border missile and drone strikes that killed 14 people in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, accusing rebel groups based there of fuelling the unrest.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards pledged to carry out more attacks until the groups are disarmed.

The United States said one of its citizens had been killed in the Iranian strikes.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022

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