Iran steps up crackdown on protests in Kurdish areas

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (HPD) — Iran on Tuesday intensified its crackdown on protests in Kurdish areas in the west of the country, as demonstrations sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman detained by morality police continued, according to activists.

Riot police fired on at least one neighborhood in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, as Amnesty International and the White House national security adviser criticized violence against protesters angry over Mahsa Amini’s death.

Meanwhile, some oil workers joined protests at two major refinery complexes on Monday, for the first time linking a key industry for the Iranian theocracy to the protests.

The Iranian government insists Amini was not ill-treated, though her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beatings. Subsequent videos have shown security forces beating and pushing female protesters, including women who had removed their mandatory hijab, a headscarf that covers their hair.

Despite authorities’ restrictions on the internet, videos have circulated from the capital, Tehran, and elsewhere. Popular videos on Monday showed college and high school students demonstrating and chanting, and some girls and women marching down the street without hijabs as the protests entered their fourth week. The marches are the biggest challenge to the Iranian theocracy since the Green Movement protests in 2009.

A video shared online by the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a Kurdish group, showed darkened streets where shots appeared to be fired and a bonfire burned in Sanandaj, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Tehran.

Another showed riot police with shotguns advancing in formation with a vehicle and appearing to fire at houses.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran shared another video showing what it described as a group of security officers on motorcycles moving through Sanandaj.

“According to reports, they broke the windows of hundreds of cars in the Baharan neighborhood,” the center said.

Amini was Kurdish and his death has been particularly felt in the Iranian Kurdish region, where protests began on September 17 at his funeral, following his death the day before.

Amnesty International criticized the Iranian security forces for “using firearms and launching tear gas indiscriminately, including at people’s houses”. The group urged the international community to pressure Iran to end the crackdown, while Tehran maintained restrictions on the internet and mobile networks “to hide its crimes.”

Iran did not immediately acknowledge the new security crackdown in Sanandaj. However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador over Britain’s sanctions against members of the country’s security forces and morale police due to the crackdown.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry called the sanctions “arbitrary and baseless” and threatened possible retaliation against London.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, also noted that “the world is watching what is happening in Iran.”

“These protesters are Iranian citizens, led by women and girls demanding dignity and fundamental rights,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter. “We stand with them and will hold accountable those who use violence in a vain attempt to silence their voices.”

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