PARIS: Iranian security forces shot dead at least three people on Saturday in the western province of Kurdistan in the latest deadly protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a rights group said.
The country’s clerical leadership under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is facing its biggest challenge since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, in two months of violent demonstrations following Amini’s death in custody on September 16.
The authorities have responded with a crackdown that Olso-based group Iran Human Rights says has left dead at least 342 people, half a dozen already sentenced to death and more than 15,000 arrested.
On Saturday, Hengaw, a Norway-based rights group which monitors abuses in Kurdish areas, told AFP that “the government’s repressive forces opened fire on protesters in the town of Divandarreh, killing at least three civilians”.
Protesters have been killed in 22 of Iran’s 31 provinces, IHR said Wednesday, including 123 in Sistan-Balochistan and 32 in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran by the notorious morality police over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s mandatory hijab headscarf law.
Protester’s corpse ‘seized’
Protests raged overnight in the town of Bukan in Kurdistan, where Revolutionary Guards opened fire on family members mourning a slain protester and taking his body from hospital before burying it in an undisclosed location, Hengaw said.
Activists accuse Iran’s security forces of carrying out secret burials of protesters they have killed, to prevent more violence from flaring at their funerals.
“Last night, after (IRGC) Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces attacked Shahid Gholi Pur Hospital in Bukan, they seized Shahryar Mohammadi’s body and buried him secretly,” Hengaw said, adding that the forces “opened fire on his family and inflicted injuries on at least five of them”.
Elsewhere, hundreds of mourners were seen marching Saturday along a road near Mahabad in West Azerbaijan province for the funeral of Kamal Ahmadpour, a young man shot dead by the security forces, in a video published by the 1500tasvir monitor.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s forces have significantly increased the use of lethal weapons in attacks on protesters in the past five days,” Hengaw told AFP.
The rights group said the security forces had killed at least 25 people in Kurdistan since Tuesday, when protesters thronged streets on the anniversary of a lethal 2019 crackdown known as “Bloody Aban” - or Bloody November.
“Twenty-three people were killed by direct fire, one by torture, and one by knife stabs,” Hengaw said.
The state-run Iran newspaper on Saturday reported that 14 security personnel had been killed in the three days of protests called to mark the November 15 anniversary.
Hundreds were killed in the 2019 crackdown on street violence that erupted over a hike in fuel prices.
Iran’s foreign ministry hit out at the “deliberate silence of foreign promoters of chaos and violence in Iran in the face of... terrorist operations in several Iranian cities”.
“It is the duty of the international community and international assemblies to condemn the recent terrorist acts in Iran and not to provide a safe haven for extremists,” it added.
Iran accuses Western nations that host Persian-language media - including Britain - of fomenting the unrest.
Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5 said Wednesday that Iran wanted to kidnap or kill UK-based individuals it deems “enemies of the regime”, with at least 10 plots uncovered this year.
The Times newspaper on Saturday reported that British police had placed armed response vehicles outside the Persian-language Iran International television station in London, after threats by Iran against its journalists.
On Wednesday, 10 people including a woman, two children and a security officer were killed in two separate attacks in the cities of Izeh and Isfahan, according to the authorities.
Two members of Iran’s pro-government Basij paramilitary force were stabbed to death in the northeastern city of Mashhad while trying to intervene against “rioters”, state news agency IRNA reported.