Tara Orami, Citizen Journalist, Saqqez
On the second day of nationwide strikes in Iran, markets and schools in Saqqez were closed despite warnings from the Education Department. Meanwhile, checkpoints have multiplied on the roads leading to the northwestern city amid continued threats on local journalists.
The first day of the strike coincided with a ceremony in Saqqez marking the 40th day since the death of Fereydoun Faraji, one of the victims of the brutal state crackdown on the protest movement that has rocked Iran for 12 weeks.
Saqqez is the birthplace of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in the custody of Tehran’s morality police on September 16. Her death sparked the current wave of demonstrations. Shopkeepers in the city’s bazar have been on strike for the past 20 days.
December 5; Strikes and Ceremony
On the first day of the three-day nationwide strike, while shutters were pulled down across the city, the ceremony for Faraji was held at Aychi cemetery.
Fereydoun, a citizen of Saqqez, was killed on October 27 by security forces in Baneh, also located in Kurdistan province. His body was buried at night under the surveillance of security forces.
Fereydoun Faraji, born in 1994, used to travel every morning from Saqqez to Baneh, where he worked in a restaurant, and return home at night.
On the first day of the strikes, Saqqez residents gathered at Fereydoun's grave to honor his name and the memory of other people killed during the protests.
Mostafa, Fereydoun's father, recited a poem and the crowd chanted slogans after the ceremony.
🎥فریدون فرجی، شهروند سقزی در روز ۵آبان در شهر «بانه» به دست ماموران امنیتی کشته شد و پیکر او شبانه و تحت فشار نیروهای امنیتی در آرامستان «آیچی» به خاک سپرده شد. این ویدیو شعرخوانی و حرفهای «مصطفی» پدر فریدون فرجی در مراسم #چهلم پسرش بر مزار اوست.— ایران وایر (@iranwire) December 6, 2022
#مهسا_امینی #اعتصابات_سراسری pic.twitter.com/3lZCuXm8Vj
December 5-6; Markets and Schools Closed
Nationwide strikes have not been limited to markets; schools have also been closed in Saqqez for two days, with both students and their families joining the protest action.
A teacher told IranWire: "Perhaps elementary schools can be excluded from the strike these days, but I definitely say that no class will be held in secondary and high schools. Students have joined the nationwide protests and strikes by boycotting school and teachers by shutting down classrooms."
Saqqez’ Education Department issued a statement in which it called the school closure a "rumor". It also warned that students, parents and teachers will be directly affected by the decisions to close schools.
However, schools remained shut on December 6. A member of the Saqqez Teachers Trade Union Association explained that during the previous two days, no class was held in secondary and high schools.
A taxi driver said he did not allow his children to go to school during the three-day strike. Some families sent their children to school, but they were so few that the classes could not be held.
On the first day of the strike, peddlers sold their products in the city’s main square because the market and shops were closed. Their number significantly decreased the following day.
Intensification of checkpoints
In recent weeks, checkpoints and traffic controls intensified on the roads from Sanandaj, Bukan and Baneh to Saqqez.
But controls increased significantly during the strikes, and several residents of Saqqez told IranWire that the officers were checking all the passing cars in detail.
One of them said: "They even took out my laptop and told me to turn it on. They checked the contents of the laptop and when they didn't find anything, they handed it back to me. They mostly look for statements and calls for protests. Some also say that they are looking for any kind of weapons with the aim of finding an excuse to [detain people] and file a case against [them]”.
More pressure on journalists
Since the beginning of nationwide protests, journalists and media activists in Saqqez and other cities across Kurdistan have been under constant threat. According to reports, security and judicial bodies call them or send them text messages every day saying that they do not have the right to publish any material related to protests and strikes.
A media worker in Mahabad said a local media that had published a picture of the ceremony marking the 40th day since Amini's death was targeted by the security forces: "The director of the media was summoned and told that the photo of the ceremony should be deleted. They even kept him in custody…for one night."
In other cases, the security forces called and summoned the managers of some local media and forced them to delete photos and news related to protests and strikes.
Some local journalists have gone on strike to protest censorship and threats made against journalists. One of them said: "Some may not agree with our action, but we have decided not to cover any issue. Saqqez has been the center of the protests and strikes for three months. If we are not allowed to cover this topic, what else should we write about”?
Saqqez Telegram sites and channels, which are run by independent journalists and media activists, have not published any news for nearly three months.