PARIS: Rights groups expressed concern on Tuesday over the extent of the Iranian crackdown on a Kurdish-populated town that has become a hub of protests, as oil refinery workers launched strikes in a new tactic.
Iranian religious authorities have been reeling from more than three weeks of protests that erupted after the death of Mahsa Aminia 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish of origin, who had been arrested by the notorious morality police.
Despite the authorities’ brutal use of force which activists say has claimed dozens of lives and led to hundreds of arrests, there is so far no sign of an end to the protest movement.
Protests have been particularly intense in the town of Sanandaj in western Kurdistan province, Amini’s home region, where rights groups fear heavy casualties and accuse authorities of resorting to shelling neighborhoods.
Norwegian-based Hengaw rights groups said an Iranian warplane arrived at the city’s airport overnight and buses carrying special forces were on their way to the city from other places. places in Iran.
He warned residents were having trouble sending in video evidence of the events due to internet restrictions, but said a seven-year-old child was killed on Sunday evening. AFP could not immediately verify the allegations.
Amnesty International said it was “alarmed by the crackdown on protests in Sanandaj amid reports of firearms and tear gas being fired indiscriminately by security forces, including into homes”.
“Iranian authorities continue to disrupt the internet and mobile networks to hide their crimes,” he said in a statement.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said there was a risk of a similar situation in the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan, where activists say more 90 people have been killed since September 30.
“The ruthless killings of civilians by security forces in Kurdistan Province, in the wake of the massacre in Sistan-Balochistan Province, are likely preludes to serious state violence to come,” its director said. Hadi Ghaemi.
Analysts said the protests were proving particularly difficult for authorities led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, due to their length and multifaceted nature ranging from street demonstrations to individual acts of defiance. .
In a new development on Monday, the protests spread to Iranian oil refineries with videos showing strikers burning tires and blocking roads outside the Asalouyeh petrochemical plant in the southwest.
They could also be heard shouting slogans including “Death to the dictator” and “Don’t be afraid, we are all together!”.
Similar actions were reported at other facilities, including Abadan in the west of the country, where the Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR) said a strike was already underway on Tuesday.
University campuses and even school classrooms have also seen regular protests, with students at the Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran on Monday chanting anti-regime slogans.
In a video shared by social media channel 1500tasvir which monitors protests and police violations, students from Tehran University of Art were shown spelling the Persian word for blood –” khun” — in a human chain.
The crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death on September 16 has left at least 95 people dead, according to IHR.
Activists say those who died in the protests include two teenage girls, Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh, whose families say they were killed by security forces after being detained. Authorities insist they died in falls.
Another 90 people were killed by security forces in the city of Zahedan, in far southeastern Iran, from September 30, after protests sparked by the alleged rape of a teenage girl by a leader police in Sistan-Balochistan province, IHR said, citing the UK office Baloch Activists Campaign.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russel said “we are extremely concerned by continuing reports of children and adolescents being killed, injured and detained amid ongoing public unrest in Iran.”
The crackdown has drawn international condemnation with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan telling Iran that “the world is watching” and “will hold accountable those who use violence in a futile effort to silence” protesters.
The UK said on Monday it had imposed sanctions on Iran’s vice police, the unit that arrested Amini and enforces strict dress rules for women, including compulsory headscarves.
Iran said it summoned the British ambassador to protest the “baseless” sanctions.
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Column said on Tuesday that five French citizens are currently being held in Iran, in comments implying that one of the nine foreigners Iran has said it is holding with links to the protests is French.

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