Security forces fire on crowd in Iran's Zahedan: rights group

Security forces fire on crowd in Iran's Zahedan: rights group
Human rights groups fear dozens have been killed in Zahedan. Protestors faced automatic gunfire after emerging from Friday prayers in the poverty-stricken province.
3 min read
Iranian security forces fired at protestors in the southeastern city Zahedan. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranian security forces fired at protesters in Zahedan on Friday, a US-based rights group said, a month after dozens were killed in a crackdown on demonstrations in the southeastern city.

"The special police forces cracked down on the protesters and fired at the crowd" in Zahedan, the Human Rights Activist News Agency said in a Twitter post.

The tweet was accompanied by a video in which gunfire and chants of "Allahu akbar" (God is greater) could be heard. AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.

A long burst of automatic gunfire was also audible in another video posted online by the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), which said it was aimed at people who were seen scrambling for cover.

Activists said dozens of people had emerged from Friday prayers and taken to the streets of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province on the border with Pakistan.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA blamed "rioters" for the unrest in Zahedan, saying they had set tyres on fire.

"Some rioters, who were masked, threw stones at cars" that drove by around Tawhid Square in Zahedan, it said.

IRNA said Zahedan was generally "calm" and that police were present in the city, namely around the Makki mosque.

It later quoted a statement from the provincial security council that accused "opportunists" of trying to spark "riots and insecurity" in Zahedan.

"A number of citizens and members of the security forces were wounded by bullets fired by unknown individuals," the statement said.

The protests come four weeks after "Bloody Friday" protests triggered by anger over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander in the region.

Security forces killed at least 93 people during that unrest, according to the Norway-based IHR. At least eight security personnel were killed, according to an AFP tally based on official reports.

The violence flared in Zahedan two weeks after nationwide protests erupted over the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating Iran's strict dress code for women.

Authorities in Iran have dismissed two senior police officials in Zahedan after concluding an investigation into the unrest on September 30, state media said on Friday.

The Sistan-Baluchistan security council said its investigation carried out at the request of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi found officers were negligent and that "innocent" civilians died.

Zahedan is one of the few Sunni-majority cities in predominantly Shiite Iran.

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchistan province is a flashpoint for clashes with drug smuggling gangs as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and Sunni Muslim extremist groups.