Iranian security forces have intensified a crackdown in western Kurdish towns, IranWire can reveal. This comes as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reinforcement special forces arrived in Marivan overnight to suppress the protests and launch a military operation across the border in Iraq’s Kurdistan province.
Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Kurdistan province and hometown of Mahsa Amini, whose death in police custody last month sparked nationwide protests, has been the scene of fierce clashes between security forces and protesters over the past few days.
The protests in Sanandaj and Saqqez were met with a swift and violent response from security forces. Protestors fought back, reportedly killing at least one officer, and burned piles of seized weapons and equipment.
According to reports received by IranWire from Sanandaj, government forces targeted protesters with tear gas and live ammunition. Several protestors were reportedly killed and many others were injured.
Footage from Sanandaj early on Tuesday shows lines of riot police firing at protesters and plumes of smoke rising from across the city. A young man can be seen in one clip lying face down on the street with blood pouring from his head.
"They killed one in Sanandaj," a man can be heard saying in the clip. Other footage shows heavily armed officers firing live ammunition at cars and houses in a residential neighbourhood. A man can be heard screaming after several shots. Protesters in the city chased after more than a hundred riot police on Tuesday.
Heavily armed columns of military vehicles were seen patrolling the streets of Sanandaj on Tuesday afternoon. However, defiant protesters continued gathering in large numbers in several Kurdish cities. “This is the power of Kurds,” a man can be heard saying in one video as protesters take control of a street.
Iranian officials have severely restricted internet access in every town in Kurdistan province, disrupting the flow of information and raising concerns about the situation of Kurdish citizens. Residents have reported a heavy and unusual presence of security forces on the street to restrict people's movements.
Iranian authorities blamed the violence on an array of enemies including Iranian-Kurdish dissidents, with the IRGC attacking their bases in neighboring Iraq several times during the latest round of protests.
More than 50 military vehicles carrying IRGC special forces and heavy weaponry arrived at the border town of Marivan overnight. A security official in the city told IranWire that one of the aims of this movement of forces is to launch a military operation against Kurdish parties across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The IRGC bombed Iranian-Kurdish targets inside the Iraqi region of Kurdistan late last month with missiles and drones, killing at least nine people.
Tehran regards these armed factions as "terrorists" and has accused them of attacking its territory. There are growing concerns that Iran’s security forces may use this cover-up to massacre Kurdish protesters.
On Tuesday, Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s interior minister, blamed Kurdish parties across the border for encouraging the protests. He did not acknowledge the police’s violence towards protesters.
Reports from the town indicate that police have stormed the houses of people who had been protesting in the streets over the past few days. Police broke windows and caused terror in a residential neighbourhood. They have also arrested young men from at least five households.
Sources told IranWire that security forces raided the house of a young woman who had been injured during the previous night's protests in Saqqez, and violently arrested her. Eyewitnesses said that security forces used extreme violence against the young woman despite her injury, dragging her to the ground and taking her away with them.
Reports from Kurdish towns also indicate that government forces shot and killed a 22-year-old man named Aryan Moridi in Salas Babajani.
Amnesty International criticised Iranian security forces for “using firearms and firing tear gas indiscriminately, including into people’s homes.” They urged the world to put pressure on Iran to end the crackdown as Tehran continues to disrupt Internet and mobile phone networks “to hide their crimes.”
Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, also condemned Iran for using force against protesters and posted on Twitter 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.” He added: “We stand with them, and we will hold responsible those using violence in a vain effort to silence their voices.”
At least 185 people, including 19 minors, have so far been killed, hundreds injured, and thousands have been arrested by security forces. Blaming the protests on Iran’s foreign enemies, authorities said “rioters” have killed at least 20 members of the security forces.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador after the United Kingdom issued sanctions against members of the country’s morality police and security officials for suppressing the protests.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry called the sanctions “arbitrary and baseless,” and threatened to take countermeasures against London.