Deadly crackdown continues in Iranian province neighboring Pakistan after weeks of unrest

Deadly crackdown continues in Iranian province neighboring Pakistan after weeks of unrest
These screengrabs from a video posted by Amnesty Iran on November 4, 2022, show people protesting (left) in Khash city of Sistan and Baluchistan province before running away from live ammunition (right) fired at them. (Photo courtesy: @AmnestyIran)
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Updated 06 November 2022

Deadly crackdown continues in Iranian province neighboring Pakistan after weeks of unrest

Deadly crackdown continues in Iranian province neighboring Pakistan after weeks of unrest
  • Soldiers fired live ammunition at demonstrators, killing scores in Khash city after Friday prayers
  • At least 304 protesters were killed by security forces across Iran since mid-September

QUETTA: A crackdown on protesters in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province continued over the weekend, activists and residents said on Sunday, after security forces fired at demonstrators in Khash city amid deadly unrest.

Protests have been ongoing across the sprawling border province neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan since a Sept. 30 rally in the regional capital, Zahedan, triggered a violent response from security forces.

The bloodshed has spread to other areas and on Friday soldiers fired live ammunition at demonstrators who marched from a key mosque to the governor house building in Khash, 145 km from Zahedan to rally against the Iranian government.

The Baloch Activists Campaign said the protesters were chanting “Death to the dictators” and “Death to Basiji.” Basiji is a volunteer force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been involved in quelling the unrest.

Amnesty International reported that 10 people, including children, were killed, and said it was “gravely concerned about further bloodshed amid Internet disruptions and reports of authorities bringing more security forces to Khash from Zahedan.”

Local activists and a prominent Sunni cleric, Mulvi Abdul Hamid, the imam of the central mosque of Zahedan, said the number of casualties was at least 16.

“A number of teenagers and young people who gathered in front of the governorate of Khash city and shouted slogans and started throwing stones were directly targeted by live rounds,” Hamid said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the incident showed “the depth of oppression and discrimination” in the region.

Arab News could not independently verify the death tolls provided by Amnesty, activists and residents, but footage from Khash circulating on social media showed young protesters falling down as troops fired at them. Charred vehicles and smoke rising from buildings were seen in photos shared by Iranian state media, which blamed the damage on “rioters.”

Residents in neighboring areas said Khash has since gone into a communication blackout.

“Majority of our friends and relatives in Zahedan and Khash were using the Internet through VPN, but after Friday, they are unable to connect through VPN as well,” Asif Burhanzai, a resident of Mirjaveh near the Pakistan-Iran border told Arab News, as he was unable to reach his relatives in the city.

Muhammad Zia, a trader in Zahedan, said local reports estimated that the death toll in Khash has risen to 25 after Friday’s clashes and the whole city was now on strike.

“The situation is very grim for the third day in Khash after the deadly shootings carried out by the Iranian military,” he told Arab News.

“There is a complete shutter down strike in the entire city against the brutality committed against the innocent and unarmed protesters.”

Sistan and Baluchistan is home to the long-oppressed Sunni Muslim Baluch ethnic group, a minority in predominantly Shiite Iran.

Demonstrations started in the province following the alleged rape a 15-year-old-girl Baloch by a police commander in the port city of Chabahar.

The violence comes amid countrywide demonstrations against the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iranian morality police.

At least 304 people have been killed by security forces since the beginning of the protests in mid-September, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization.

“Iran Human Rights has received a high volume of reports of deaths which it continues to investigate with Internet disruptions,” the group said in a statement on Saturday. “The actual number of people killed, therefore, is certainly higher.”

Deaths have been reported in 22 provinces, with the most in Sistan and Baluchistan, Mazandaran, Tehran, Kurdistan, and Gilan.