TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian police said Monday that they had arrested people behind protests that broke out last week in the southwest of the country, state news agency IRNA reported.
“All the perpetrators of an illegal and norm-breaking gathering in Behbahan (city) were identified and arrested,” Khuzestan province’s police chief Heydar Abbas Zadeh was quoted as saying.
He did not say how many people were detained, and he did not identify them.
The protests occurred on Thursday “with a limited number of Behbahan residents gathering and shouting norm-breaking chants,” he said, a term usually used by Iranian authorities to refer to anti-system slogans.
July 16—Behbahan, SW #Iran
Newly obtained video has sounds similar to gunfire & one member of the security forces is seen pointing a gun at protesters.
Locals are also reporting security forces resorting to live gun fire against the protesters.#Behbahanpic.twitter.com/CD7FbbDoRn
— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) July 17, 2020
At the time, Behbahan’s police said the crowd did not respond to calls to disperse and security forces broke up the protest “with firmness” and restored “calm,” without there being any casualties or damage to property.
The gathering was “to protest the economic situation,” it added.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards announced on Thursday that they had arrested a number of “agitators” who had called for street protests in northeastern Mashhad city, and that they had also broken up a “terrorist group” linked to the People Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) in southwestern Shiraz.
NetBlocks, a website that monitors international internet outages, said online access was restricted and disrupted for about three hours in Khuzestan around the time of the protest.
Khuzestan is a key oil-producing region that has often complained of official neglect.
Bordering Iraq, it is one of the few areas in mainly Shiite Iran to have a large Sunni Arab community.
Iran’s economy has shrunk significantly since 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed punishing sanctions on the country.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated Iran’s economic woes with a temporary shutdown of the economy and reduced exports, leading to a sharp devaluation of its currency and rising inflation.