Iran’s crackdown on protests intensifies in Kurdish region

DUBAI (AP): Iran intensified its crackdown Tuesday on Kurdish areas in the country’s west as protests sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman detained by the morality police rage on, activists said.

Riot police fired into at least one neighborhood in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, as Amnesty International and the White House’s national security adviser criticized the violence targeting demonstrators angered by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Meanwhile, some oil workers Monday joined the protests at two key refinery complexes, for the first time linking an industry key to Iran’s theocracy to the unrest.

Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating. Subsequent videos have shown security forces beating and shoving female protesters, including women who have torn off their mandatory headscarf, or hijab.

From the capital, Tehran, and elsewhere, videos have emerged online despite authorities disrupting the internet. Videos on Monday showed university and high school students demonstrating and chanting, with some women and girls marching through the streets without headscarves as the protests continue into a fourth week. The demonstrations represent one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 2009 Green Movement protests.

One video posted online by a Kurdish group called the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights showed darkened streets with apparent gunfire going off and a bonfire burning in Sanandaj, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Tehran.

Another showed riot police carrying shotguns moving in formation with a vehicle, apparently firing at homes.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran posted another video showing what it described as a phalanx of motorcycle-riding security forces moving through Sanandaj.

“They reportedly broke the windows of hundreds of cars in the Baharan neighborhood,” the center said.

Amini was Kurdish and her death has been felt particularly in Iran’s Kurdish region, where demonstrations began Sept. 17 at her funeral there after her death the day before.

Amnesty International criticized Iranian security forces for “using firearms and firing tear gas indiscriminately, including into people’s homes.” It urged the world to pressure Iran to end the crackdown as Tehran continues to disrupt internet and mobile phone networks “to hide their crimes.”

Iran did not immediately acknowledge the renewed crackdown in Sanandaj. However, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador over the United Kingdom sanctioning members of the country’s morality police and security officials due to the crackdown.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry called the sanctions “arbitrary and baseless,” even while threatening to potentially take countermeasures against London.

Jake Sullivan, U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, similarly noted that “the world is watching what is happening in Iran.”

“These protestors are Iranian citizens, led by women and girls, demanding dignity and basic rights,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter. “We stand with them, and we will hold responsible those using violence in a vain effort to silence their voices.”