ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Wounded Kurdish protesters are avoiding treatment at medical facilities in fear of being arrested by Iranian security forces, a local human rights watchdog wrote on Monday, amid growing nationwide unrest.
Protests began on Friday after Tehran passed a new regulation on subsidized gasoline, effectively tripling its price. Although limited at the start, demonstrations quickly spread to other parts of the country, including its Kurdish region to the west.
According to multiple local rights groups, the security forces have killed over a dozen protesters in a crackdown campaign, allegedly using live rounds. The elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) threatened on Monday to take a “decisive” response if demonstrations continued.
The judicial authorities also appear to be using intimidating tactics to deter protests. They had allegedly sent messages to people they deemed had participated in the demonstrations and threatened that repeated presence would lead to prosecution.
Tehran has also shut down access to the internet, according to web blockage observatory NetBlocks, over the past two days, in a country which already severely restricts access to online resources and websites.
Hengaw, which frequently writes on issues relating to Kurdish rights in Iran, reported on Monday that the security forces had arrested over 300 Kurdish civilians, as per their local sources, in the cities of Kermanshah (Kermashan), Javanrud (Jwanro), Marivan (Mariwan), and Bokan. Amid fears of being captured themselves, many people injured by the security forces during demonstrations avoid going to hospitals, it added.
According to reports by Hengaw and Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK), upward to 25 protesters from the Kurdish provinces of Kermashan, Kurdistan, and West Azerbaijan have been killed. KMMK also estimated that close to 200 people might have been killed nationally and 3,000 others wounded.
The numbers could not be immediately confirmed.
Protesters have been chanting anti-government slogans and, in some cities, are calling for an end to interventionist policies abroad, which includes funding of various armed groups throughout the Middle East, from Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine, to Yemen.
Westward, in Iraq, protests have similarly called for an end to Iran’s command over Iraqi affairs.
Late on Sunday, the extent of Tehran’s influence over Baghdad became even more apparent as The New York Times and The Intercept published a report analyzing hundreds of pages of secret intelligence exchanges between Iraqi and Iranian officers shared with the latter.
The unrest comes amid simmering tensions between Iran and the West over a year after the United States left a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and international powers. Washington reinstituted successive rounds of sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany