Iran cities strike in solidarity with Zahedan dead

PARIS (AFP): Cities in western Iran went on strike Wednesday in solidarity with mourners marking 40 days since security forces killed dozens in a crackdown on protests in the country’s strife-torn southeast, a rights group said.

Security forces opened fire on protests that erupted on September 30 after weekly prayers in Zahedan, capital of the flashpoint province of Sistan-Baluchistan on Iran’s southeastern border with Pakistan.

It came two weeks after demonstrations broke out across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, following her arrest in Tehran for allegedly flouting the country’s strict dress code for women.

Widespread strikes were underway Wednesday in the Kurdish western cities of Baneh, Kermanshah, Marivan, Sanandaj and Amini’s hometown of Saqez, the Norway-based Hengaw human rights group said.

The stoppages were being observed “in solidarity with the fatalities in Zahedan on their 40th day death ceremonies,” Hengaw, which monitors abuses in Kurdish areas, said on Twitter.

The trigger for the violence that erupted in Zahedan on September 30 was the alleged rape in custody of a 15-year-old-girl by a police commander in the province’s port city of Chabahar.

Security forces opened fire on men who took to the streets after emerging from mosques following weekly prayers, killing dozens in a massacre that became known as “Bloody Friday.”

“What happened that Friday… in Zahedan, based on international law, is a clear instance of mass murder of civilians,” Hengaw said.

“This mass murder must be recognized by international organizations and Western governments,” it tweeted.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says that since then at least 118 people have been killed in Sistan-Baluchistan province. The Iranian authorities say at least six security personnel have been killed.

Zahedan is one of the few Sunni-majority cities in predominantly Shiite Iran.

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchistan province is a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and Sunni extremist groups.

Activists have long complained the region has been the victim of discrimination by Iran’s Shiite clerical leadership, with disproportionate numbers of Baluch killed in clashes every year and also hanged in executions.

The latest executions were announced on Wednesday.

The judiciary’s Mizan Online website said two men, Rashid Baluch and Eshaq Askani, were put to death on Tuesday after being convicted of killing four police officers in 2016.

It said they were members of the Jaish Al-Adl (Army of Justice) terrorist group.