Iranian security forces cracked down on protests in Kurdish areas of the country yesterday and briefly detained the father of Mahsa Amini, a year after the young woman’s death in custody set off some of the worst political unrest in four decades.
State-affiliated media reported arrests of several ‘counter revolutionaries’ and ‘terrorists’ in different Iranian cities and said security forces had foiled plots to create disturbances around illegal demonstrations.
The death of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman arrested by the morality police last year for allegedly flouting mandatory dress codes, triggered months of some of the biggest protests against the Islamic Republic’s clerical rule ever seen and drew international condemnation.
As night fell yesterday, a heavy security force presence in Iran’s mostly Kurdish areas appeared to have deterred large-scale protest rallies but human rights groups reported sporadic confrontations in several areas of the country.
Videos posted on social media showed people gathered on a main avenue in the capital Tehran cheering a young protesting couple as drivers honked their car horns in support.
The official Irna news agency reported that fire engulfed the women’s ward at the Qarchak prison in Tehran province before being put out after convicts awaiting execution set fire to their clothes. It said there were no casualties.
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network, which said the incident was linked to the protests, said special forces entered the ward, beat up the women and fired pellet bullets.
In a separate incident, human rights group Hengaw said security forces opened fire in the Kurdish city of Mahabad, wounding at least one person. It also said several people were wounded in the city of Kermanshah but there was no official confirmation of either incident.
In Amini’s home town of Saqez, in northwestern Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that police using a pellet gun shot had seriously injured a man who ‘ignored a police warning’. It said the man was in an intensive care ward after undergoing an operation but provided no more detail.
Social media postings also carried footage of residents of cities including Tehran shouting out slogans against Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as protests in areas including Gohardasht, in the city of Karaj west of Tehran, and in Mashhad in the northeast.
In the demonstrations that followed Amini’s death more than 500 people, including 71 minors, were killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested, rights groups said. Iran carried out seven executions linked to the unrest.
Mahsa’s father, Amjad Amini, was warned against marking the anniversary of his daughter’s death before being released, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network said and the family was not able to hold a planned vigil at her graveside.
Hundreds gathered in central London to mark the anniversary.
Chanting ‘Women! Life! Freedom!,’ the crowds held her portrait and rallied around the memory of the young woman.
Similar protests took place in Italy, Germany and France.
“But I think what’s really important about this protest is that Iranian men, for the first time in the history of Iran, they’re actually standing with women and they’re supporting the women and they’re showing respect for the women,” she said.
“That’s very original and it’s never happened in the history of Iran,” said Soheila Sokhanvari, an Iranian-British artist, moved to the U.K. to study a year before the 1979 revolution that brought Iran’s conservative Islamic leaders to power.