Iran’s armed forces have used shotguns and tear gas to disperse anti-government protests in multiple western Kurdish towns and cities, wounding dozens of people, as Iranians celebrated the Persian New Year.
Violent clashes occurred across Kurdistan province late on March 20, including in Mahabad, Saqqez and Dehgolan, as residents attended cultural and traditional events to mark Nowruz amid heavy security presence, sources told IranWire.
Iran has been swept by popular protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes since the September 2022 death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in police custody.
The women-led protest movement poses one of the most serious challenges to the theocracy installed by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Security forces have killed more than 520 people and detained over 20,000 since the demonstrations began, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
The protests and clampdown on dissent have been particularly intense in western Kurdish areas.
Late on March 20, a source in Mahabad said government armed forces fired pellets and tear gas at citizens attending a ceremony in the city, injuring over 40 people, including women and children.
The protestors chanted "Death to Khamenei," "Death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and "Woman, life, freedom," the main slogan of the protest movement.
An eyewitness said hundreds of people attending a Nowruz ceremony in Mahabad’s Chahar Cheragh area were violently dispersed, while the protesters tried to resist the armed forces by throwing stones.
A Nowruz ceremony was also disrupted in Saqqez when security forces firing pellets and tear gas at a crowd, inflicting injuries to a number of people, sources told IranWire.
The source said the protesters were chanting slogans against the Islamic Republic when the security forces opened fire, wounding at least five people. One woman was said to have sustained serious injuries.
According to a local source, hundreds of people gathered at Amini’s grave in Saqqez, despite a large security presence.
A civil activist from Baneh said government armed forces also disrupted Nowruz celebrations in the town by firing pellets and throwing tear gas.
More than 60 activists in the town have been summoned and threatened not to hold such ceremonies over the past week, the source said.
The Intelligence Department of Baneh issued warnings that participating in these ceremonies would result in legal actions against them.