Iranian security forces deployed in the hometown of Mahsa Amini in anticipation of a flare-up in unrest marking the first anniversary of her death in morality police custody, witnesses, social media posts and rights groups said yesterday.
The death on September 16 of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd arrested for allegedly flouting the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code, sparked months of anti-government protests that spiralled into the biggest show of opposition to the authorities in years.
Many, with women and young people often at the forefront, called for an end to more than four decades of clerical rule. More than 500 people, including 71 minors, were killed in the protests, hundreds injured and thousands arrested in unrest that was eventually crushed by security forces, rights groups said.
In Amini’s birthplace in Iran’s western province of Kurdistan, a rights activist said there was a ‘heavy presence of security forces’.
Another activist said a small gathering of protesters chanted anti-government slogans before quickly dispersing.
The activists spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a fear of government reprisals amid a growing clampdown on dissent as the anniversary approached.
Social media posts spoke of security force deployments in several cities, mainly within Kurdistan. The reports could not be immediately verified.
In a statement, the Norway-based human rights group Hengaw said several Kurdish cities in western Iran “have experienced an atmosphere of intimidation and the declaration of a state of war in recent days”. It said numerous citizens had been detained.
Hengaw added that military personnel were positioned on top of Tapeh Qawkh, a hill overlooking Saqez, while residents had witnessed a surge in helicopter activity over the city.
Social media posts quoted Saqez residents as saying that authorities had installed new surveillance cameras around the city, apparently to monitor and identify protesters.
Web monitor Netblocks yesterday reported “significant disruption to Internet connectivity in the (southeastern city of) Zahedan ... targeting anti-government protests ... on the eve of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death”. Social media postings said weekly protests were held in Zahedan on Friday with slogans including ‘Death or freedom’.
Authorities have accused the US and Israel and their local agents of fomenting the unrest to destabilise Iran.
In a statement yesterday, US President Joe Biden said: “Mahsa’s story did not end with her brutal death. She inspired a historic movement – Woman, Life, Freedom – that has impacted Iran and influenced people across the globe.”