DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (HPD) — The sound of what appeared to be gunshots and explosions could be heard early Monday on the streets of a city in western Iran that has been at the center of protests over the death of a woman. 22 years old. Security forces killed at least one man in a nearby town, according to activists.
The incidents come amid angry demonstrations in cities and towns across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, who died on September 16 days after being detained by morality police in Tehran. Although the Iranian government insists that Amini was not ill-treated, videos of violent confrontations with women wearing too much of the Islamic headscarf or hijab have fueled suspicions that she was assaulted during her detention.
Despite government restrictions on the internet, videos circulate from Tehran and elsewhere showing women marching down the street without hijabs and people confronting authorities and lighting bonfires in the street. The demonstrations, which have now lasted for more than three weeks, are one of the most significant challenges to the Iranian theocracy since the 2009 Green Movement marches.
The violent incidents on Monday morning occurred in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, as well as in the village of Salas Babajani near the border with Iraq, according to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a Kurdish group. . Amini was Kurdish and her death has been felt especially in the Kurdish region of Iran, where protests began on September 17 at the young woman’s funeral.
Hengaw shared a video of what was described as smoke rising at night over a neighborhood in Sanandaj, to the sound of what sounded like gunshots and screams from people.
There were no immediate reports of injuries. Hengaw later shared another video of what appeared to be rifle and shotgun casings picked up from the ground, as well as empty tear gas canisters.
Authorities initially gave no explanation for the morning’s events in Sanandaj, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Tehran. Esmail Zarei Kousha, the governor of Kurdistan province, claimed without presenting evidence that unknown groups had “conspired to kill young people in the streets” on Saturday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday.
Kousha also accused those unidentified groups of shooting a young man to the head that day, an attack activists have blamed on Iranian security forces. Activists said Iranian forces shot the man after he honked his horn as he walked past them. Honking has become a form of civil disobedience, and other videos have shown riot police responding by smashing the windshields of moving vehicles.
In the town of Salas Babajani, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Sanandaj, a man died of his injuries after being shot multiple times by Iranian security forces while protesting in the town, according to Hengaw. Other people were injured in the shooting.
It was not yet clear how many people had died in the demonstrations and in the repression of the marches. The last figure published on state television was at least 41 dead in the protests until September 24. The government has not released any new data in the more than two weeks since then.
An Oslo-based group called Human Rights in Iran estimates that at least 185 people have been killed, though that includes some 90 people killed in clashes in the eastern city of Zahedan. Iranian authorities have linked the clashes in Zahedan to unidentified separatists, although Human Rights in Iran said the incident began with a protest over allegations of rape against a local policeman.
Meanwhile, several prisoners were killed in a prison riot in the city of Rasht, a prosecutor told the media. It was initially unclear whether the Lakan Prison riot was related to the protests, although there have been large demonstrations in Rasht in recent weeks following Amini’s death.
“Some prisoners died from their injuries when the electricity (in the prison) was cut off due to the damage,” provincial prosecutor Mehdi Fallah Miri was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency. He also accused the prisoners of not allowing the authorities to reach the wounded.
Miri indicated that the riot had taken place in a wing of the prison where prisoners sentenced to death are housed.