Iran toughens crackdown as some oil workers reported to join protests

Protests have swept Iran since Mahsa Amini died on Sept. 16 while being held for 'inappropriate attire'

Reuters October 10, 2022
Dr Soraya Fallah, an Iranian Kurd from Saqqez living in Los Angeles, demonstrates while holding a picture of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini at a protest following her death, outside the Wilshire Federal Building Los Angeles, California, US, September 22, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS


Iranian security forces intensified a crackdown on anti-government protests in several Kurdish cities on Monday, social media posts and videos showed, pressing efforts to quell unrest ignited by the death of a woman in morality police custody.

Protests have swept Iran since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran's Kurdish region, died on Sept. 16 while being held for "inappropriate attire", marking one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

While university students have played a pivotal role in the protests with dozens of universities on strike, unconfirmed reports on social media showed workers at Abadan and Kangan oil refineries and the Bushehr Petrochemical Project had joined in.

An oil ministry spokesperson did not immediately reply to a phone call from Reuters seeking comment.

A combination of mass protests and strikes by oil workers and Bazaar merchants helped to sweep the clergy to power in the Iranian revolution four decades ago.

Tensions have been especially high between authorities and the Kurdish minority which human rights groups say has long been oppressed - a charge the Islamic Republic denies.

Human rights group Hengaw reported a heavy presence of armed security forces in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Saqez and Divandareh on Monday. It said at least five Kurdish residents were killed and over 150 injured in protests since Saturday.

Read more: Khamenei accuses US, Israel of fomenting 'riots' in Iran

Videos shared on social media showed protests in dozens of cities across Iran early on Monday, with fierce clashes between protesters and riot police in cities and towns across Amini's native Kurdistan province.

The Iranian authorities have blamed the violence on an array of enemies including armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents, with the Revolutionary Guards attacking their bases in neighbouring Iraq a number of times during the latest unrest.

Iran has a track record of putting down unrest among its more than 10 million Kurds, part of a Kurdish minority whose aspirations for autonomy have also led to conflicts with authorities in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Heavy gunfire could be heard in several videos shared on Twitter by the activist 1500tasvir. A video showed several explosions creating blinding flashes in a neighbourhood of Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdistan province.

Activists said on social media that several people, including two teenagers, were killed by security forces in the province. Reuters could not verify the videos and posts.

'Ready to die'

At least 185 people, including 19 minors, have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands have been arrested by security forces, according to rights groups. Blaming the protests on Iran's foreign foes, authorities said "rioters" have killed at least 20 members of the security forces.

In spite of a harsh crackdown by security forces, protesters across Iran have burned pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for the downfall of the clerical establishment and chanted "Death to the Dictator".

Hundreds of high-school girls and university students have joined the nationwide protests, unfazed by teargas, clubs, and, in many cases, live ammunition used by the security forces, rights groups said. Tehran has denied that live bullets have been used.

"Hey world, hear me: I want a revolution. I want to live freely and I am ready to die for it," said a 17-year-old protester in a central Iranian city, whose name and location could not be revealed by Reuters due to security concerns.

"Instead of dying every minute under this regime's repression, I prefer to die with their (security forces) bullets in protests for freedom."


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