Iran’s military issues warning to ‘riots’ as security forces struggle to quell unrest
DUBAI (Reuters) – The commander of Iran’s army ground forces said on Wednesday that “riots” will not happen in the Islamic Republic if the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei orders a tougher crackdown on nationwide protests, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
“… if he decides to deal with them, the rioters will no longer have a place in the country,” said Brigadier General Kiumars Heydari.
Anti-government protests erupted in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who was arrested by morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code imposed on women.
The protests quickly turned into a grassroots uprising involving people from students to doctors to lawyers to workers to athletes.
Heydari was speaking 40 days after the bloodshed in the predominantly Sunni town of Zahedan, which has become a flashpoint for protests.
Amnesty International reported that security forces killed at least 66 people there on September 30. Zahedan authorities have dismissed the police chief and the head of the police station where the killings took place.
Iran has executed two Baloch militants convicted of “terrorism” charges that began around 2016, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported on Wednesday, in a move that could further escalate tensions in the volatile Sistan-Baluchistan province where Zahedan is located.
The Baloch minority, estimated to number up to 2 million people, has faced decades of discrimination and repression, according to rights groups.
Some of the worst unrest has been in areas home to minority ethnic groups that have long protested the state, including Sistan-Baluchistan and the Kurdish regions.
Shopkeepers in some Kurdish towns went on strike on Wednesday to show their respect for the people killed in Zahedan, Kurdish rights group Hengaw said.
Market shopkeepers in Waliasr, Tehran province, also closed their businesses to mark the 40th day of the killings, HRANA news agency reported.
Basij militias and other security forces have cracked down in hopes of quelling the unrest, but the furor has not abated.
While past protests have focused on election results or economic woes, the current protesters seem determined to secure a brand new political order in a country where a clerical establishment has ruled since a 1979 revolution.
As part of the ongoing act of resistance, videos posted on Twitter under the hashtag #TurbanTossing show Iranians sneaking up behind clerics and knocking turbans off their heads.
According to the Iranian human rights organization Hengaw, schoolgirls from the city of Korveh in northwestern Iran took to the streets with slogans and asked other Iranians to join them.
(Writing by Michael Georgi; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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