Iran: alarm raised over ‘bloody’ crackdown on protesters in Kurdistan

As Tehran summoned the British ambassador in reaction to UK penalties against the morality police, rights groups raised concerns over an escalating crackdown by Iranian security forces on demonstrators in the western province of Kurdistan.

According to Amnesty International, security officers in the province capital Sanandaj have fired tear gas and deployed weapons “indiscriminately,” even into people’s houses.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was allegedly engaged in a “massacre” in the city, according to a female demonstrator who spoke to the Guardian. Because they were chanting for freedom, she claimed, “they locked down the city and are executing people inside with firearms and bombs.”

The human rights organisation Hengaw, located in Norway, has put footage online showing what appears to be shooting in Sanandaj despite the authorities’ shutdown of the internet.

Iranian warplanes had spent the night at the airport serving the city, according to Hengaw, while buses carrying special forces were their route from other parts of Iran.

As the fourth week of demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, while in police custody began on Monday, Britain announced sanctions against the “morality police in its entirety,” as well as Iran’s police commander and the head of the Basij militia, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.

Later that day, the Iranian government responded by calling Simon Shercliff, the British ambassador to Iran, to a meeting in Tehran. The sanctions were referred to as “baseless” by Iran, who also charged the UK with meddling in its domestic affairs.

The protests have been particularly fierce in Sanandaj, Amini’s hometown in Kurdistan, where rights organisations fear numerous casualties.

The Sistan and Baluchistan region, in the south-east, where activists claim more than 90 people have died since September 30, according to activists, faces the possibility of developing a similar situation, according to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

After the tragedy in Sistan and Baluchistan province, its director, Hadi Ghaemi, told Agence France-Presse that “the cruel killings of people by security personnel in Kurdistan province are likely preludes to catastrophic state violence to come.”

Workers from Iran’s oil industry joined the demonstrations on Monday, marking a new trend.

Workers were seen on camera blocking the entrance to the Bushehr petrochemical complex in the Gulf port city of Assaluyeh while yelling “death to the tyrant.” According to a regional authority, the workers were not protesting Mahsa Amini’s passing but rather their salary.

The wife of an oil worker, who is 23 years old, told the Guardian that “the situation in Assaluyeh is truly worrying.” “I’m worried about my husband’s security. There is no way to get in touch with him or find him.

The woman said, “We will throw the regime out via our ongoing battle this time,” after claiming to have previously destroyed her hijab in protest of Amini’s passing.

Iran has the fourth-largest crude oil reserves in the world, and the sector is vital to the country’s economy. Oil workers’ strikes played a significant role in the 1979 revolution’s victory.

“The regime will be in irreparable difficulty if these unrests continue and grow, especially if the energy sector joins the protests,” said Fatemeh Aman, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, speaking from Erbil. I’m not sure if there is currently a desire for reconciliation within the establishment, but even if there is, bloody crackdowns on ethnic minorities [as in Sanandaj] will make any reconciliation all but impossible.

The government have accused a wide range of players, including armed Kurdish insurgents, American and Israeli spies, as well as “traitorous Iranians abroad,” of being responsible for the unrest and violence. No proof of involvement from abroad has been offered.

Five French individuals have been detained by Iranian authorities, according to France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna, after a video of a French couple admitting to “spying” was broadcast in Iran.

France had encouraged its people to leave Iran a week earlier, claiming they were at risk of being arbitrarily detained.

The EU is getting ready to join the US, Britain, and Canada in slapping sanctions on the Iranian security forces as a result of the repression of demonstrators.

“The EU agreed yesterday the technical aspects of a sanctions package that will target those behind the repression,” Colonna said on Tuesday.

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