10/03/2022, 12.08
IRAQ - IRAN
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Fr. Samir: Continuous Iranian bombardment of Kurdistan since death of Mahsa Amini

"At night we are woken up by explosions," the priest confirms. Iranian Kurdish refugee camps and resistance centres are targeted. At least 12 victims of the attacks, among them a pregnant woman. Prayers at youth mass for those fighting for freedom and rights. Tehran university under siege.  30-year-old Italian tourist among those arrested.  

Erbil (AsiaNews) - The echo, and the violence, linked to the protests over the death of 22 year old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police "have reached Iraqi Kurdistan: for days Teheran has begun bombing several areas, from Erbil to Ankawa to Sulaymaniyya, at night we are woken up by explosions. They are targeting refugee camps or centres where Kurds or Iranian dissidents, who fled long ago, live", says Fr. Samir Youssef, parish priest of the diocese of Amadiya, in Iraqi Kurdistan,.

He tells AsiaNews  "bombs and drone attacks have killed at least 12 people, dozens have been wounded. Among the victims, the death of a young pregnant woman in a refugee camp was particularly moving; doctors managed to save at least the baby'. 

The presence of the Iranian Kurds, or members of the dissidence, goes back years and is linked to high-level political agreements, tied to the fact that no attacks on Iranian territory would start from Kurdistan.

"The presence of resistance bases is known," Fr. Samir confirms, "but there were no major problems and, unlike Turkey with the PKK, Tehran did not strike. But after the girl's death, and the beginning of the demonstrations, the situation changed and even our territory became a target to strike, fuelling a climate of tension and fear".

The story of the young Kurdish girl, he emphasises, has had "wide echo in the regional and national media, with widespread support for the Iranian people and their legitimate demand for freedom and rights".

Meanwhile, reports of repression endorsed by the authorities continue to arrive from Iran. According to Amnesty International sources, the Tehran government has ordered the security forces to repress demonstrations 'severely and without mercy'.

For the activist movement, there are documents dating back to 21 September from the headquarters of the Armed Forces and directed to the commanders of the various departments in which they ask them to 'deal with the anti-revolutionaries and troublemakers with the utmost severity'. Another document on the 23rd for Mazandran province urges to 'deal ruthlessly, to the point of causing deaths, with any disturbances by insurgents and anti-revolutionaries'. 

However, the threats and violence of the ayatollahs do not stop the wave of protest that continues in the streets, squares and even campuses, which are under siege. This is the case of the Sharif University in Tehran, where violent clashes between agents - even plainclothes departments - and students have taken place. Last night elements of the Basij militia "surrounded the campus and opened fire" using rubber bullets and "arresting at least a hundred people, including students and teachers".

In a video posted on social networks, despite the network blockade imposed by the authorities, students are seen being chased by policemen and being arrested at the gates of the university, now more akin to a prison.

Among those arrested is the journalist who first spread the news of Mahsa's death. She is Niloofar Hamedi, who for several years had been covering news stories about the morality police and its influence - growing since the rise to the presidency of the ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi - on Iranian society. In the meantime, the toll has risen to at least 133 dead, over a thousand (but it is difficult to have reliable estimates) people arrested by the security forces.

Among them is also an Italian girl, Alessia Piperno, a 30-year-old tourist (apparently uninvolved in the protests, despite having written about them on her social channels) and arrested on her birthday. During the night, the family's desperate appeal on social media, asking for help from the government in Rome to obtain her release. 

Fr. Samir underlines that "even among Iranian Christians there is deep concern about what is happening". And the street protests over the death of Mahsa Amini were also the subject of debate and discussion at the diocese's youth meeting, promoted by the same priest: "The girls feel touched by the event, they are sad and feel pain over the deaths and the videos in which they cut their hair. However, they support their battle for freedom and rights just as strongly, and in the masses we have celebrated over the past few days, we have also wanted to pray for them". 

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