Washington [US]: 19 people were killed in Iran on Friday in one of the deadliest clashes between the police and protestors since the anti-government demonstrations started in the country over the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman called Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after her arrest for allegedly failing to comply with Iran’s strict rules on women’s dress by wearing an “improper hijab”.
Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Sistan and Balochistan provincial governor Hossein Modarres Khiabani as saying 19 people were killed and 20 wounded in the confrontation, including the police.
Iranian protesters and police had a violent confrontation in southeastern Iran. The confrontation happened as worshippers from Iran’s Sunni minority left Friday prayers at the Makki Grand Mosque in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Balochistan province, reported Voice of America (VOA).
Footage shows men apparently bleeding from wounds being carried by others and placed on the ground as onlookers try to render first aid.
One video filmed from inside the mosque shows worshippers walking to the exits and then running as apparent gunfire is heard outside.
Other clips apparently from surrounding streets show a man running and throwing a stone, a police vehicle on fire, and people watching as more gunfire is heard in the distance, reported VOA.
Dubai-based Iranian dissident Habibollah Sarbazi, who serves as secretary-general of the Balochistan National Solidarity Party, told VOA Persian that some worshippers joined an anti-government protest at a nearby police station and threw stones. Police responded by opening fire.
Sarbazi, whose group is one of several fighting for the rights of Iran’s ethnic Baloch minority, said he learned about the confrontation from what he called reliable sources inside Iran.
He said those sources told him the protesters were angered in part by allegations earlier this month that a police official at the station had sexually assaulted a teenage girl, reported VOA.
Another semiofficial news agency, Tasnim, said one of those killed was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence commander of Sistan and Balochistan province, Seyyed Ali Mousavi.
Iranian state media described the protesters as terrorists and separatists and accused them of firing weapons at police.
The Iranian opposition-led Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) told VOA that its sources inside Iran estimated that at least 40 protesters were killed and at least 20 security personnel were wounded.
In the past two weeks, Iranian authorities and rights activists have reported the killings of dozens of people including some security personnel as the government cracks down violently on mostly peaceful nationwide protests, reported VOA.
Initial public expressions of anger at Amini’s death and Iran’s decades-old mandatory public headscarf policy for women quickly evolved into Iranian protesters calling for more freedoms and the death of Iran’s Islamist rulers.
In recent years, Sistan and Balochistan province has seen occasional confrontations between Iranian security forces and armed groups including anti-government Baloch rebels and gangs engaged in smuggling across Iran’s border neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan. (ANI)