Protests continue in Iran amid a deadly crackdown by security forces

New anti-government demonstrations erupted across Iran on Wednesday, with images of many protests appearing on social media despite severe internet restrictions. Protesters appeared to defiantly call for a day of national rallies in response to a deadly crackdown by Iran security forces in the cities of Sanandaj and Zahedan.

Also on Wednesday, the Norway-based group Iran Human Rights updated its estimate of the number of protesters killed by Iranian authorities during more than three weeks of near-unprecedented unrest to 201. The group said 23 of the victims they were children.

The government had previously acknowledged only about 40 deaths and claimed that members of the security forces were among the dead.

The crowds that came out to protest on Wednesday appeared to include a wide range of ages. Some marched and chanted “Freedom!” while some women threw their obligatory headscarves into the air.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran said lawyers in Tehran who gathered in front of the Central Bar Association of Iran were later attacked by security forces who used tear gas to disperse them. At least three lawyers were arrested, the group said, adding that an eyewitness said two white vans arrested about a dozen people.

Sanadai is the capital of the western province of Kurdistan, where residents and human rights groups have accused security forces of firing tear gas and indiscriminate live fire into homes and protesters at close range.

Health professionals inside and outside Iran have too he told CBS News that since the protests began on September 16, many injured protesters were either turned away from state hospitals or detained when they tried to seek treatment.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, doomed the “shocking violence” and called for sanctions on “those responsible for this repression”.

Anger towards the regime was particularly strong in the Kurdish regions of Iran. Mahsa Amini, whose death in custody of Iran’s “morality police”. sparked the protests last month, it was from Saqqez, a city in Kurdistan province.

Iran protests the diaspora
A woman holds a placard with an image of Iranian Mahsa Amini during a protest over her death, in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, September 28, 2022.

Markus Schreiber / AP

On Tuesday, the Kurdish rights group Hengaw reported that at least 5 civilians had been killed and more than 400 injured in violence by government forces over the previous three days.

In Zahedan, in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan, security forces have killed at least 90 people during recent protests, according to Iran Human Rights.

The Islamic regime’s strict restrictions on the Internet make it difficult to understand what is happening in Sanadai and elsewhere in Iran. The Netblocks advocacy group reported what it calls “big upsetin Internet traffic in Iran as of Wednesday morning, down about 25 percent from its peak.

Both Kurdistan and Sistan-Baluchistan provinces are home to ethnic and religious minorities, which have long been marginalized and have a history of pushing for more rights and recognition.

They are also far from the capital Tehran — a reason authorities have been more willing to use force there, especially in recent days, residents told CBS News.

Across the country, human rights groups say hundreds of children have been detained, mostly in adult prisons. The Tehran-based Society for the Protection of Children’s Rights said families are being kept in the dark about their children’s whereabouts and have no access to lawyers.

Iran’s Education Minister Yousof Nouri acknowledged that students have been arrested during the protests, according to Iran’s Shargh newspaper on Tuesday. He declined to give the number of those arrested, the newspaper reported, and said the detained students are being held in “psychological centers” – not prisons.

Once they are “reformed”, they will be allowed to return to school, he added.

On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated his claim that his country’s enemies were to blame for inciting the protests — though he dismissed them as “scattering riots” and an amateurish scheme, according to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

Omid Memarian, an Iranian-American journalist and activist, disputed the claim that the riots were fueled by an outside force.

“The nationwide support for the protests in Sanandaz and in Sistan and Baluchistan is the best indication that people in Iran, whether from minority groups or the capital, all see themselves united against the Islamic Republic,” Memarian said. “The Iranian government usually labels any organic protests as separatist or supported by the US or Israel, but this ploy no longer intimidates people.”

“The fact is that Iranians are suffering from the regime’s abusive and authoritarian rule, whether they live in Tehran or in the provinces,” he added.

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