Intense repression in Iran, militiamen deployed in Kurdish regions
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has deployed Basij militiamen to quell protests that have engulfed Kurdish-majority regions in the northwest of the country since the death of Mahsa Amini nearly a month ago, sources said. at Reuters.
Seven people – four members of the security forces and three demonstrators – were killed in the night from Wednesday to Thursday during demonstrations in Sanandaj, capital of the province of Iranian Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Mahabad, according to the local defense organization Human Rights Hengaw.
The anger sparked across the country by the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, after her arrest by vice squad for improperly wearing the Islamic veil, has not abated despite the crackdown, which has left some 200 dead according to rights groups.
The death of several teenage girls allegedly killed during protest rallies has further strengthened the mobilization.
Videos posted on social networks, which Reuters could not authenticate, show Basij militiamen beating protesters in Kurdish regions.
Two sources in Sanandaj told Reuters that Bassidji attacked protesters alongside riot police units.
A witness also told Reuters that hundreds of riot police and Basij militiamen had been transferred from other Iranian provinces to confront the protesters.
“A few days ago, Bassidji from Sanandaj and Baneh refused to obey orders and fired on people,” said this witness. “In Saqez, the situation is worse. These Bassidji are shooting at people, houses, even if they are not demonstrators.”
The Bassidji, volunteers who are a paramilitary force dependent on the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, could number in the millions, with around one million active members, experts say.
Although the movement triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini has been going on for almost four weeks, the Iranian authorities have already subdued much longer periods of protest, including the 2009 uprising against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which lasted nearly six months. before ending.
DOZENS OF ARRESTS
In Sanandaj, a source told Reuters, hundreds of police have been deployed and riot units have searched homes and arrested dozens of young people in recent hours.
“We also have information from Baneh and Saqez. They have arrested dozens of young people since yesterday, including teenagers,” added this source, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.
The Hengaw organization reported violent confrontations between security forces and protesters in ten cities on Wednesday evening.
In Kermanshah, two people were killed by live ammunition fired by the security forces. Hengaw posted a photograph of the body of an 18-year-old man, one of the victims she said. Three members of the security forces were also killed in the city, and around 40 others injured, the organization added.
A fourth member of the security forces was also killed in Mahabad, and a protester was killed by police bullets in Sanandaj, she said.
The Iranian authorities, who deny that the security forces are shooting at protesters, have so far mentioned a toll of around twenty members of the security forces killed since the start of the protest.
The tension is particularly high in the Kurdish regions which aspire to autonomy and have long felt marginalized. The Iranian government blames the violence on Kurdish dissidents whose bases in Iraq have been repeatedly bombed by the Revolutionary Guards.
Throughout the country, however, demonstrators are calling for unity against the regime and for the fall of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, Ali Khamenei. Many women take part in the rallies to express their rejection of the strict dress code imposed by the mullahs.
In the columns of the daily Ettela’at, an adviser to Khamenei, the former Speaker of Parliament Ari Larijani, openly questions the relevance of the government’s intervention concerning the wearing of the veil.
“If 50% of women in our country don’t fully wear hijab, then the police shouldn’t be involved,” he says. “The question is this: should the government intervene on such matters?”
The head of the Iranian judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, for his part ordered that severe sentences be pronounced against the “main leaders of the riots”.
According to the official media, “several” people arrested during the demonstrations have been charged. Human rights organizations estimate the number of people arrested at thousands.
(Writing from Dubai, French version Jean-Stéphane Brosse)
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