Iran’s crackdown targets women and minorities, but Mahsa’s death is still fuelling the uprising
The death toll since the start of protests over the killing of a young Kurdish woman has reached 154. The repression is centred on the north-west (Kurdistan) and the south-east (Balochistan). Other young women killed by the police have become a symbol of the uprising for rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, the regime is ready to strike at the resistance across the border in Iraq.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – The clampdown against protests, especially by young women, following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the morality police has provided Iran’s regime with an opportunity to crack down on all forms of dissent.
Mahsa Amini, who was taken into custody as she left a Tehran Metro station, was not wearing a hijab correctly. As a result, the Islamic head-covering has become a symbol of the oppression by Iran’s theocratic state.
However, the repression has also targeted the country’s ethnic minorities, like the Kurds in north-western Iran, on the border of Iraq and Turkey, and predominantly Sunni Balochis in the south-east, on the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to Iran Human Rights (IHR), an NGO based on Oslo (Norway), at least 154 people have been killed since protests broke out. However, the real number may be far higher and bound to rise further, given the threats by Iranian leaders and the iron fist against the protesters endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In Zahedan, 63 people were killed on 30 September in what has been dubbed “Bloody Friday”. Protests broke at the end of Friday prayers after a police officer raped a 15-year-old Balochi girl.
The dead include nine minors, their age still undetermined. For the Amiry-Moghaddam, “The killing of protesters in Iran, especially in Zahedan, amounts to crimes against humanity.”
Since the start of the protests, people have been reportedly killed in 17 provinces, in particular in Sistan-Baluchistan (63), in the south-eastern region on the border with Pakistan, and in the Kurdish north-west.
Mahsa Amini herself was Kurdish, a community of some 8.1 million people out of a total of 83 million, mostly living in Saqez, Urmia, Diwandara, Kermashan, Dehgolan, Ilam, and Piranshahr.
The protest movement started in her home town of Saqez, the day after she was buried on 16 September, soon spreading to the whole country. Quickly university campuses were affected.
The other hot spots of protest, and death, are the southern provinces with their large Sunni population, subject to repression in the past by the Shia-dominated Islamic Republic.
The authorities in Tehran fear that pro-Mahsa rallies could turn into a broader uprising in Balochistan, where local nationalists have clashed with Iranian security forces and carried out guerrilla attacks for almost 20 years.
Yet, despite the government’s crackdown, pictures of young female university students removing their veil in protest and mocking the pictures of President Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Khamenei hanging on classrooms’ walls continue to be posted on social media.
Women, young and old, are increasing taking the lead in the protest movement, and dying from the regime’s bullets, confirmation of how much the death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman is the galvanising factor, driving people against an oppressive society symbolised by the hijab.
In addition to Mahsa, the list of women who have died in the struggle for freedom and rights is getting long. One of them is Minoo Majidi, 62, shot by security forces on 20 September in the Kurdish town of Kermanshah.
Another one is Ghazaleh Chelavi, 32, a keen mountain climber killed on the same day in Amol, on the Caspian Sea; then there is Hannaneh Kia, 23, deliberately killed in Nowshahr on her way home after a medical examination.
Like Mahsa, Hadis Najafi was 22. Famous for her last video on social media in which she enthusiastically joins the protest, she too was killed by police. Nika Shakarami, 16, had a passion for music and was killed in Khorramabad, in western Iran, after taking part in protests. The authorities buried her body in a secret location to prevent her family from seeing it with obvious signs of torture.
As a priest in Iraqi Kurdistan recently told AsiaNews, Iran is also intensifying its attacks across the border, in Iraq, killing scores.
Sources cited by the Voice of America (VOA) say that Iran recently boosted its military presence along the Iraqi border .
The regime appears ready to launch operations in Iraqi territory against bases of the Iranian resistance and camps with Kurdish refugees from Iran. Kurdish-Iranian pro-democracy groups have been targeted for elimination.
According to Atta Saqzi, a spokesperson for Revolutionary Association of Workers of Iranian Kurdistan, “There have been threats against Kurdish party officials for a long time.”
What is more, “after the demonstrations and uprisings of the Kurds in the east [Iranian Kurdistan], Iran has openly threatened to take revenge on the Kurdish parties."