Protests in Iran swept dozens of cities

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 Protests in Iran swept dozens of cities

Iran's biggest anti-government protests since 2009 gained momentum on Saturday, spreading to 80 cities, even as authorities stepped up crackdown that killed dozens according to local publics and human rights groups people and famous activists and journalists were arrested.

Internet access, especially in mobile phone applications widely used for communication, continues to be interrupted or completely blocked, which affects the ability of Iranians to communicate with each other and with the outside world. The world receives news from Iran with many hours of delay.

While the protests of 2009 erupted over elections widely condemned as rigged, the current demonstrations seemed to be focused on Iranian security forces, with reports of severe beatings of security forces and arson attacks on the local headquarters of the infamous “vice police”.

In many cities, including the capital Tehran, security forces responded by opening fire on the crowd. On Ferdous Boulevard and in the Shahrak Ekbatan residential complex in Tehran, police opened fire on windows. In the city of Rasht, according to eyewitnesses and videos on social networks, tear gas was thrown into apartments.

Iranian state media reported late Friday that at least 35 people had been killed in the riots, but human rights groups said Saturday the number was likely much higher. The previous death toll of 17 released by state media included as a minimum of five security personnel.

Videos posted online and the extent of the authorities' response are hard to independently verify, but videos and photos sent in by witnesses known to The New York Times were broadly consistent with images widely posted online.

Analysts said deep resentment and anger have been building for months, especially among young Iranians, in response to the crackdown on women ordered by the country's hardline President Raisi.

In addition, corruption, inefficient economic management, and inept response to the Covid epidemic are rampant in the country. Political repression has also been widespread for many years. This whole bunch of problems persisted under the current President Raisi, who came to power by eliminating all potential competitors before the elections, especially representatives of the reformist faction.

During the reign of Raisi's predecessor, the moderate Hassan Rouhani, the vice police did not enforce Iran's often draconian laws on women, in particular the requirement that they wear the hijab in public “properly”. But Iran's powerful spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is now rumored to be on bed rest after an emergency operation, provoked Raisi's rise to power, greatly disappointing Iran's younger generation.

The predominantly Kurdish town of Oshnawiye was overrun by protesters as local security forces retreated after days of heavy fighting, a paramilitary leader and editor of a Kurdish news site said.

"Since yesterday evening, Oshnavie has been under the control of the people", — Hussein Yazdanpana, leader of the Kurdistan Freedom Party, a militant Iranian-Kurdish group based in Iraq, said in an interview. he said, calling the city a gateway to other Kurdish areas of Iran. Mr. Yazdanpana, who has group members in the city, said, however, that Iranian security forces have concentrated around Oshnawiye and that he fears a bloodbath.

Ammar Gholi, an Iranian Kurd based in Germany who edits the news site NNS Roj, maintains regular contact with residents of Oshnawiye, a province of West Azerbaijan home to 40,000 ethnic Kurds. He said residents have set up roadblocks at the entrance to the city's only two roads.

Videos posted on social media show large crowds of people marching through the streets of Oshnavieh, many dressed in traditional Kurdish clothing and chanting “Freedom”. > Goli said local sources told him that an army battalion and an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unit from the nearby town of Orumiya had been deployed to quell the protests and bring back Oshnawiye.

“We expect bloodshed. The situation is extremely tense", — Goli said.

President Raisi, returning to Iran from New York where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly, warned on Friday in a speech at Tehran airport that the government “will not, under any circumstances, allow the security of the country and society to be endangered.”

The Ministry of Intelligence has sent out a text message to all mobile phone users warning that any participant in demonstrations that they say were organized by Iran's enemies will be punished in accordance with Sharia law. Copies of the texts were given to The New York Times and posted on social media.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 11 journalists, including Nilufar Hamedi, a reporter for the Sharh daily who first reported on the Ms. Amini and interviewed her family in the hospital were arrested.

According to the organization, Majid Tawakoli and Socialist yologist Mohammadreza Jalaipur.

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