DUBAI, Oct 10 (Reuters) – Iranian security forces intensified a crackdown on anti-government protests in several Kurdish cities on Monday, social media posts and videos showed, pressing efforts to quell unrest ignited by the death of a woman in morality police custody.
Protests have swept Iran since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran‘s Kurdish region, died on Sept. 16 while being held for “inappropriate attire”, marking one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
The Islamic regime in Iran is exposing the Kurdish city of #Sanandaj to constant shelling and gunfire, but the brave residents of this city are not giving up their fight. The regime knows its end will come.#MahsaAmini
— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 9, 2022
While people across Iran have been protesting, tensions have been especially high between authorities and the Kurdish minority which human rights groups say has long been oppressed – a charge the Islamic Republic denies.
Human rights group Hengaw reported a heavy presence of armed security forces in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Saqez and Divandareh on Monday. It said at least five Kurdish residents were killed and over 150 injured in protests since Saturday.
Videos shared on social media showed protests in dozens of cities across Iran early on Monday, with fierce clashes between protesters and riot police in cities and towns across Amini’s native Kurdistan province.
The Iranian authorities have blamed the violence on an array of enemies including armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents, with the Revolutionary Guards attacking their bases in neighbouring Iraq a number of times during the latest unrest.
Kurdistan in the west of Iran is under attack by regime security forces. This city is Sanandaj, where protests have been non -stop for 24 days. People on the ground say that the city has become a war zone. #Sanandaj #سنندج pic.twitter.com/K8kDoilagh
— Shiva Ganji (@ShivaGanji16) October 10, 2022
Iran has a track record of putting down unrest among its more than 10 million Kurds, part of a Kurdish minority whose aspirations for autonomy have also led to conflicts with authorities in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
Heavy gunfire could be heard in several videos shared on Twitter by the activist 1500tasvir. A video showed several explosions creating blinding flashes in a neighbourhood of Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdistan province.
Activists said on social media that several people, including two teenagers, were killed by security forces in the province. Reuters could not verify the videos and posts.
Protests also continued more widely across Iran on Monday.
We the women of Iran don’t need Western politicians to just cut their hair, we want them to cut their ties with our murderers. This is what real solidarity looks like.
I told @FRANCE24.
— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 6, 2022
‘READY TO DIE’
At least 185 people, including 19 minors, have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands have been arrested by security forces, according to rights groups. Blaming the protests on Iran‘s foreign foes, authorities said “rioters” have killed at least 20 members of the security forces.
In spite of a harsh crackdown by security forces, protesters across Iran have burned pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for the downfall of the clerical establishment and chanted “Death to the Dictator”.
Hundreds of high-school girls and university students have joined the nationwide protests, unfazed by teargas, clubs, and, in many cases, live ammunition used by the security forces, rights groups said. Tehran has denied that live bullets have been used.
“Hey world, hear me: I want a revolution. I want to live freely and I am ready to die for it,” said a 17-year-old protester in a central Iranian city, whose name and location could not be revealed by Reuters due to security concerns.
“Instead of dying every minute under this regime’s repression, I prefer to die with their (security forces) bullets in protests for freedom.”
Amid a call for nationwide strike, the 1500Tasvir shared video of what it described as workers at the Bushehr Petrochemical Project, chanting “Don’t be afraid. We are all together.”
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Tom Perry, William Maclean)