Iranian authorities take aim at protesters as demonstrations enter third week

Rights groups say up to 83 killed as Tehran attempts to crackdown on persistent demonstrations; forces open fire on group stoning police station in city near Pakistan border

Two men carry an injured man following an exchange of gunfire at a police station in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchestan Province in Iran, September 30, 2022. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Two men carry an injured man following an exchange of gunfire at a police station in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchestan Province in Iran, September 30, 2022. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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

Dozens have been killed in a crackdown on the protests that erupted when Amini, 22, died in custody three days after her arrest by the notorious morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

“Death to the dictator,” bare-headed women chanted in the northwestern city of Ardabil, said Iran International, a Persian-language 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. AFP was unable to immediately verify the videos.

Iran’s state media reported that gunmen had opened fire and threw Molotov cocktails at the police station.

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

Women have defiantly burned their headscarves and cut their hair in the protests over Amini’s death — announced on September 16 — that are the biggest seen in Iran since protests in November 2019 over fuel price rises.

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 mobilized 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.

Amnesty said it had obtained a leaked official document issued to the commanders of armed forces in all provinces on September 21 instructing them to “severely confront” protesters.

Another leaked document showed that on September 23, the commander of the armed forces in Mazandaran province, where some of the deadliest clashes have taken place, ordered security forces to “confront mercilessly, going as far as causing deaths, any unrest by rioters and anti-revolutionaries.”

The NGO said it had confirmed 52 deaths in the protests but the toll was likely higher. Another rights group, Oslo-based Iran Human Rights, said 83 people were confirmed to have been killed, while Iran’s Fars news agency has put the toll at “around 60” dead.

Amnesty’s warning comes as Iran presses ahead with an intensifying crackdown that has seen the arrest of many journalists, activists, and other prominent figures.

Former Iranian international footballer Hossein Manahi was arrested 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.

“Why would FIFA give the Iranian state and its representatives a global stage, while it not only refuses to respect basic human rights and dignities, but is currently torturing and killing its own people?” they wrote on behalf of the Open Stadiums campaign.

Security forces also arrested singer Shervin Hajipour, whose song “Baraye” (“For”) made up of tweets about the protests went viral on Instagram, the rights group Article 19 said.

His song, which racked up millions of views and prompted many to comment that it moved them to tears, has now been removed from his Instagram account.

Donya Rad (R) was arrested after posting this picture of her eating breakfast in Iran without a hijab, her family said on September 30 2022 (Twitter)

Iran also arrested a woman who drew praise online after being shown eating out in Tehran without a headscarf in an image that went viral on social media.

“The security agencies contacted my sister Donya Rad and asked her to give some explanations,” her sister Dina tweeted. “Today, after going where she was told, she was arrested” and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Outside forces

The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 29 journalists have been arrested, including Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, female reporters who helped expose Amini’s case.

The crackdown has drawn widespread international condemnation.

Demonstrations of solidarity with Iranian women have been held worldwide, and rallies are planned in 77 cities on Saturday.

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.

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