Iranian security forces intensified a crackdown on anti-government protests in several Kurdish cities on Monday, social media posts and videos showed, pressing efforts to quell unrest ignited by the death of a woman in morality police custody.
Protests have swept Iran since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdish region, died on Sept. 16 while being held for “inappropriate attire”, marking one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
While people across Iran have been protesting, tensions have been especially high between authorities and the Kurdish minority which human rights groups say has long been oppressed – a charge the Islamic Republic denies.
Human rights group Hengaw reported a heavy presence of armed security forces in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Saqez and Divandareh on Monday. It said at least five Kurdish residents were killed and over 150 injured in protests since Saturday.
Videos shared on social media showed protests in dozens of cities across Iran early on Monday, with fierce clashes between protesters and riot police in cities and towns across Amini’s native Kurdistan province.
The Iranian authorities have blamed the violence on an array of enemies including armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents, with the Revolutionary Guards attacking their bases in neighbouring Iraq a number of times during the latest unrest.
Iran has a track record of putting down unrest among its more than 10 million Kurds, part of a Kurdish minority whose aspirations for autonomy have also led to conflicts with authorities in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
Heavy gunfire could be heard in several videos shared on Twitter by the activist 1500tasvir. A video showed several explosions creating blinding flashes in a neighbourhood of Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdistan province.
Activists said on social media that several people, including two teenagers, were killed by security forces in the province. Reuters could not verify the videos and posts.
Protests also continued more widely across Iran on Monday.