Iran’s security forces swoop in on cities at the centre of protests

Iran: Protests ‘are a revolution’ says Shohreh Bayat

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Iranian security forces are flooding into cities that are strongholds for anti-Government rebellions in the country’s northern regions, following months of protests over the ruling Ayatollah’s regime. The demonstrations have been some of the bloodiest the Islamic republic has seen as the Government’s internal military looks to quash dissent.

Anti-Government protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, who was believed to be beaten to death by the regime’s Guidance Patrol – dubbed the morality police.

Then, in October, two teenage girls died while in police custody, their bodies returned to their families with severe head wounds, according to local humanitarian reports.

Sarina Esmailzadeh, 16, and Nika Shakrami, 17, were both involved in protests.

The House of Commons last week heard that more than 14,000 people have so far been detained for demonstrating in Iran, with more than 300 deaths recorded.

The deaths have sparked international condemnation and further outrage toward those fighting for civil liberties under an authoritarian dictatorship.

Amnesty Iran said the country’s authorities had a “harrowing track record of killing children during protests”.

Many of the demonstrators are calling for better women’s rights – typified by the law requiring the wearing of head coverings in public spaces – on a backdrop of soaring inflation and a faltering economy.

As the Iranian national football team takes on England in the World Cup, campaigners are hoping the match will shed light on the issue.

Their team captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, said: “The situation in the country is not good and our people are not happy.”

This morning, Robert Jenrick, the UK immigration minister, said Britons were “wide-eyed to the problems of the Iranian regime”, but argued sports and politics were separate “to an extent”.

Videos posted on social media over the weekend show military vehicles pouring into Mahabad, where demonstrators have reportedly effectively taken over.

The northern region of Iran, populated by a sizeable minority of Kurds, has long expressed nationalist and independence sentiments.

Locals said streets were carpeted in tear gas and shots rang out in the West Azerbaijan province as the Iranian security forces swooped in.

Journalists have largely been prevented by the Iranian regime from accessing the areas believed to be in unrest, but opposition groups say the violence has become intense in recent weeks.

Hengaw, a Kurdish rights group in Norway, told the Times: “In Mahabad’s residential areas there is a lot of gunfire.

Meanwhile, Iran Human Rights, another Norway-based group, said there was “ample evidence” that plain-clothes forces were posing as students and opposition members to attack and kidnap them.

Students at Guilan University, in the city of Rasht, claim to have been threatened directly and questioned when entering campus.

Mehraveh, a 22-year-old engineering student, said: “Students have received text warnings on their mobile phones and their families were threatened, to discourage their children from protesting, or they would face consequences.”

The demonstrations have swept across Iran, though, and are not limited to its northern provinces.

On Friday, a large anti-regime protest erupted in the south-western city of Izeh at the funeral of a 9-year-old child.

Kian Pirfalak’s mother blamed the death in a shooting on Iran’s security forces. The demonstrations it sparked are believed to have been met with further bloodshed.

State-run media reported that seven people were killed and several wounded, including security forces, in a shooting in Izeh on Wednesday.

Authorities blamed the attack on “terrorists” without providing further details.

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