Activists say Iranian forces fired on protesters, killing 2

Dubai, United Arab Emirates –

Iranian security forces opened fire on protesters on Friday in a southeastern city that has seen weeks of unrest amid demonstrations across the country, activists said. They said the shooting in Zahedan killed at least two people, threatening to ignite further tensions.

Located in Iran’s long-unrest Sistan and Balochistan province, Zahedan has seen the deadliest violence yet in the weeks of protests that have gripped Iran. Demonstrations in the city erupted in part over a rape allegation against a high-ranking police officer there, coinciding with protests over the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini that have inflamed most of the country.

Activists estimate that in Zahedan alone, nearly 100 people have been killed since a September 30 demonstration triggered a violent police response. On Friday, soldiers surrounded a key Sunni mosque in the area where residents were demonstrating against the Iranian government and also fired on protesters, activists said.

Protests across Iran have become the biggest threat to the country’s theocratic rule since the 2009 Green Movement demonstrations, shifting from a focus on women’s rights and compulsory wearing of the veil, or hijab, to calls for expel the Shiite clerics who have ruled Iran since 1979. Islamic Revolution.

Weeks after the protests, women continue to remove their hijabs during street demonstrations as international pressure mounts on Iran’s government for its crackdown on protesters.

The demonstrations have involved more than 125 cities; At least 270 people have been killed and nearly 14,000 have been arrested, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran.

The Iranian province of Sistan and Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan on the Gulf of Oman, is a majority Sunni region. Its Baluchi people have long complained that Iran’s Shiite theocracy treats them like second-class citizens.

On Friday, videos from the HalVash advocacy group showed protesters on the streets of Zahedan, the province’s most populous city and its capital. Some chanted “Death to the Basiji,” a reference to the volunteer forces of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards, who answer only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Images later showed clouds of what appeared to be tear gas in the streets. The sound of gunfire rang out, with video showing protesters holding what appeared to be spent rifle cartridges littering the street.

Footage then shows the protesters backing towards the city’s Grand Makki Mosque, where they had initially gathered for Friday prayers. Security forces followed him. Later, bloody streaks on tiles and bloody palm prints can be seen in the mosque’s courtyard, and activists say they fear two people may have been killed.

“Police officers, please open the way for the faithful,” a voice pleaded over the mosque’s loudspeakers at one point. “Don’t cause (trouble) so that people can return to their homes.”

Internet advocacy group NetBlocks said later on Friday that it appeared online access had been disrupted in Zahedan.

Iranian authorities did not immediately acknowledge Friday’s violence in Zahedan, located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of the country’s capital, Tehran. Later, state television in an online report said one person had been killed and 14 others injured in Zahedan. He did not say who was behind the shooting.

The state-run IRNA news agency published a statement from the provincial security council early Friday saying the police chief in Zahedan and another police officer had been fired for their handling of the September 30 protest. The statement acknowledged for the first time that police shot and killed people who were praying at the time in a nearby mosque.

The security council version of the demonstration alleges that 150 people, including armed men, attacked a police station and tried to take it over during the protests.

The “armed conflict and police shooting, unfortunately, resulted in the injury and killing of several worshipers and innocent bystanders who had no role in the riots,” he said.

However, the statement claimed that only 35 people were killed, while activists estimate that about three times that number were killed by security forces, who also allegedly fired on protesters from helicopters.

New protests also broke out in other cities, including in western Baneh, on Thursday night. The activists warned that other people had died at the hands of the security forces. However, Iran’s government has not provided a total death toll from the protests in weeks.

Gathering information on the demonstrations remains difficult. The Iranian government has cut off Internet access for weeks. Meanwhile, authorities have detained at least 46 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Iranian officials, including Khamenei, have repeatedly claimed that the country’s foreign enemies are behind the ongoing demonstrations, rather than Iranians angry over Amini’s death and the country’s other problems.

Iranians have seen their life savings evaporate; the country’s currency, the rial, crashed and Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers was shattered.

Leave a Comment