DUBAI: Iranian security forces have been deployed in the hometown of Mahsa Amini in anticipation of a flare-up in unrest marking this weekend’s first anniversary of her death in morality police custody, witnesses, social media posts and rights groups said on Friday.
The Sept 16 death of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd arrested for allegedly flouting the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code, sparked months of anti-government protests that spiralled into the biggest show of opposition to Iranian authorities in years.
Over 500 people, including 71 minors, were killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested in the unrest that was eventually crushed by security forces, rights groups said.
US, UK sanction Iranian officials
There’s a heavy presence of security forces in Saqez, a right activist in Iran told Reuters, referring to Amini’s birthplace in the western province of Kurdistan. Another activist said a small gathering of protesters chanted anti-government slogans before quickly dispersing.
The two activists spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of government reprisals amid an increasing clampdown on dissent as Amini’s death anniversary approached.
Social media posts spoke of security force deployments in several cities, mainly within Kurdistan. The reports could not be immediately verified.
In a statement, the Norway-based human rights group Hengaw said several Kurdish cities in western Iran have experienced an atmosphere of intimidation and the declaration of a state of war in recent days.
On Friday, web monitor Netblocks reported “significant disruption to internet connectivity in the [southeastern city of] Zahedan … targeting anti-government protests … on the eve of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death”.
The UK on Friday imposed sanctions on four Iranian officials and the US said it was sanctioning more than two dozen individuals and entities connected to Iran’s “violent suppression” of protests.
Iranian security forces detained Amini’s uncle Safa Aeli on Sept 5, relatives told Reuters. Iran’s Etemad daily reported in August that the lawyer for Amini’s family also faced charges of “propaganda against the system”.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2023