Iranian officials say at least 620 Baluchis have been arrested during weeks of anti-government protests in Sistan and Baluchestan, as human rights activists fear a crackdown by security forces on demonstrators in the restive eastern province left up to 10 people dead on November 5.
Armed forces fired shots and tear gas at protesters who had gathered in several cities across Sistan and Baluchestan, an impoverished region where ethnic Baluchis make up the majority of the population. The mostly Sunni ethnic group has long faced discrimination at the hands of the authorities in majority Shia Iran.
In Khash, security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators from the rooftops, according to footage shared online accounts from eyewitnesses.
"The crackdown is feared to have left up to 10 people including children dead and dozens more injured. Amnesty is gravely concerned about further bloodshed amid internet disruptions and reports of authorities bringing more security forces to Khash from Zahedan," Amnesty International said in a tweet.
The London-based human rights organization urged Iranian authorities to “immediately rein in security forces,” and called on the international community to “immediately raise concern with Iran's ambassadors and support the establishment of independent investigative mechanism” by the UN Human Rights Council.
The provincial capital, Zahedan, was the scene of a violent crackdown on September 30 in which security forces killed 92 people, including 12 children, according to IranWire sources. Four security forces were also killed that day, dubbed Zahedan’s Black Friday.
The incident was the deadliest in the widespread protests triggered by the September 16 death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police.
Ali Mustafavinia, the chief justice of Sistan and Baluchistan, said on November 5 that "cases have been filed for 252 [Baluchis] -- 146 of them are still in custody and 106 will be freed to go after paying bail. 368 people have already been released on bail.”
Forty-five people have already been sentenced, according to Mustafavinia, who didn’t provide further details.
Death sentences have been handed against dozens of people across the country for their alleged participation in the nationwide protests, sparking international condemnation.
Several thousand people were arrested across Iran in the fierce crackdown by security forces on the mainly peaceful protest movement, detainees were subjected to torture, and more than 270 people were killed, including over 40 children. Dozens of security forces have also been killed in the unrest, according to state media.