Protesters in New York call on the United Nations to take action against the treatment of women in Iran – Copyright AFP BULENT KILIC
Iranian security forces on Monday intensified a crackdown in western Iran’s Kurdish-populated regions that killed a dozen people over 24 hours, directly shooting at protesters and using heavy weapons, rights groups said.
The Kurdish-populated provinces of western and northwestern Iran have been hubs of protest since the September death in custody of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested by morality police in Tehran.
There have been particularly intense anti-regime demonstrations in several towns in the last few days, rights groups say, largely sparked by the funerals of people said to have been killed by the security forces in previous protests.
The Norway-based Hengaw rights group said Iranian forces had shelled overnight Sunday-Monday the cities of Piranshahr, Marivan and Javanroud, posting videos with the sound of live gunfire and what appeared to be the thud of heavy weaponry.
In one harrowing video Hengaw said was from Javanroud, locals were seen struggling to remove a body from the street under a hail of gunfire.
It said 13 people had been killed in the region by the security forces over the previous 24 hours, including seven in Javanroud, four in Piranshahr and two more in other locations.
Among six people killed by gunfire from the security forces on Sunday was 16-year-old Karwan Ghader Shokri, Hengaw said. Another man was killed when security forces fired on crowds as the teenager’s body was being brought to the mosque, it added.
AFP could not immediately verify the toll.
Internet monitor NetBlocks tweeted on Monday that there was “a major disruption” to internet services during the new protests, with “mobile internet cut off for many users”.
Hengaw said that amid “intense confrontations” between protesters and security forces in Javanroud there was now a shortage of blood for the wounded in its hospitals.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) described what was happening in Javanroud as a “massacre”, with “incessant gunshot streams, images of bloody people being carried to safety.”
Ramifications of the protests were felt in Qatar where Iran’s national team played its first match, against England. Iranian players did not sing their national anthem, and instead stood stony-faced, in apparent support for the demonstrations back home.
– ‘Intensifying violence’ –
The latest violence came alongside continued concern over the situation in Mahabad, where rights groups said security forces had sent reinforcements the day before to press a crackdown.
“Greatly concerned that Iranian authorities are reportedly escalating violence against protesters, particularly in the city of Mahabad,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter.
Hengaw posted footage it said was of heavily-armed security forces in vehicles headed from the city of Sanandaj towards Mahabad and the nearby town of Bukan.
The Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group also posted footage it said showed security forces using live fire against protesters in Piranshahr.
It also showed the distraught mother of Shokri, the teen killed on Sunday, prostrating herself on his corpse as it was taken for burial.
“Mother, don’t cry. We will take revenge,” the mourners chanted in Kurdish, the rights group said.
IHR’s director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam posted a video showing wounded protesters lying in the street in Javanroud, surrounded by the constant sound of gunfire.
“They are intensifying the violence against defenceless citizens,” he wrote on Twitter.
People also took to the streets in Kermanshah, a Kurdish-populated provincial capital, chanting “death to (supreme leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei”, another video posted by IHR said.
Iranian security forces have killed at least 378 people since the protests began, an IHR toll on Saturday said.
The demonstrations sparked by Amini’s death have become the most serious challenge to the Iranian regime since the 1979 revolution.
Analysts have noted that violence by the security forces has simply triggered more protests, with large crowds turning out for funerals and 40-day “chehelom” mourning ceremonies.
Kurds make up one of Iran’s most important non-Persian ethnic minority groups and generally adhere to Sunni Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in the country.
In the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan on Monday, a policeman was killed and another wounded by “criminals” firing from a car in a village of Zahedan, provincial police chief General Mohammad Ghanbari told Fars news agency.
Iran also renewed cross-border missile and drone strikes overnight into Monday in neighbouring Iraq against Kurdish opposition groups it accuses of stoking the protests.
The latest Iranian strikes also came a day after Turkey carried out air raids against outlawed Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan and northern Syria.