On Saturday, 29 October, Hossein Salami, the Commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), issued a threatening warning to protesters, “Do not come to the streets! Today is the last day of riots,” Salami said.
Hours after Salami’s threat of unleashing a harsher crackdown, people continued pouring into the streets in a show of defiance and act of bravery. People were chanting “Death to the Dictator” and “From Zahedan to Shiraz, I sacrifice my life for Iran.” In the Kurdish region, people were chanting at the burial of Sarina, a recent victim in Sanandaj, “Martyrs do not die.” On 1 November, all across Iran’s Kurdish province of Rojhalat, people were woken up in the morning with Kurdish patriotic anthems.
The People’s Uprising enters its eighth week with more than 300 civilians having been killed, thousands injured and over 20,000 being arrested. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also unleashed ruthless measures in a bid to end the protest movement, from opening fire on unarmed demonstrators, conducting raids on funerals, universities and dormitories, to carrying out abductions.
Khalil Kani Sanani, the spokesperson of Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), explained to Majalla the significance of the timing of Salami’s warning. He told us, “Because everything they have done to suppress the voice of the uprising people has not succeeded. Now, with this threat, Salami wanted to exert a psychological pressure on the rebels. (…)Yes, the demonstrations continue and the regime's systematic crimes are continuing also,” said Sanani.
The Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights, has reported on mass arrest of children during protests. “At least four kids from Bahonar Middle School in Sanandaj were abducted by regime forces at one in the afternoon on 1 November 2022, on Mobarak Abad Street. Mardin Parak, is one of those students,” said Hengaw. The Bahnor Middle School is not an isolated case, the regime is carrying abduction missions in all cities across Iran including Tehran. Many of the abductees’ whereabouts and fates are unknown.
Mr Sanani explained to Majalla the issue of abduction and its prevalence in Iran, “For the past 50 days, every day, the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence sent out its gestapo in groups of 8-9 people, dressed in civilian clothes, into houses and to the streets where they stopped people's cars and killed at least 2,000 people in Kurdistan, with more in Baluchistan and other regions. These war criminals have detained and ‘disappeared’ thousands throughout Iran. Through their surveillance and spy cameras, the intelligence agencies identify and track demonstrators and later arrest them while camouflaged as civilians. In Kurdistan, doctors and nurses who treat the wounded at home are also arrested. In addition, a number of relatives of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) Peshmerga have been arrested.”
The Islamic regime’s unprecedented level of oppression and inhumanity reached its peak when, on 26 October, it’s security forces opened fire on mourners marking 40 days since Zhina Amini’s death. Nearly 10,000 people gathered in Saqqez (Amini’s hometown) defiantly chanting, “Women, Life, Freedom” and “Death to the Dictator.” The barbaric crackdown resulted in the death of 16 Kurdish civilians and wounding of hundreds more. According to the Hengaw report, “14 victims, equivalent to 88% of all cases, were killed by direct fire from the Iranian security forces. A 16 year-old girl was killed by baton beatings to her head, and a man was suffocated by tear gas (…) among the victims, 3 were women, and 3 teenagers under the age of 18.”
The IRGC commander’s message is clear and strong as Salami explicitly indicated that his forces will intensify their already bestial crackdown on the protesters, and indeed he is delivering on what he ‘promised.’ His warning comes at a time when two people were killed after the IRGC opened fire on protesters in the city of Zahedan, located in Baluchistan province, which, along with the Kurdish province, has seen the deadliest violence since the protests broke out on 16 September.
Majalla spoke to Mr Rudam Azad Baloch, a human rights activist. He told us “unseen atrocities had been committed by Iranian occupational forces in Iran’s occupied Baluchistan.” Activists estimate that over 95 Baloch have been killed, and more than 200 seriously injured in Zahedan alone since a rally on 30 September in Zahedan set off a brutal police response.
The protesters in Zahedan “erupted after an Iranian Major General raped a teenage Baloch girl namely Maho Baloch,” said Rudam Azad Baloch. He continued to explain that the “Baloch people are fed up with Iranian slavery and mass executions, and took to the streets of Zahedan, Zabul, and other Baloch cities and protested against Iranian forces (…). Baloch eyewitnesses say IRGC sniper shooters were deliberately targeting Baloch protesters, most of the dead were shot in the head or chest.
Mr Rudam Azad Baloch told Majalla that Baluchistan has a very long history of a struggle for freedom. “The Iranian occupation of Baluchistan began when the British Empire at that time drew an artificial line called 'Goldsmith line’ in 1871 by dividing the then united Baluchistan state and joining part of it with Iran. In 1895 the British drew a similar line further subdividing Baluchistan into Afghanistan. However, the good thing is that both the countries of Afghanistan and Baluchistan never accepted this imaginary line. In 27 March 1948, Pakistan invaded Baluchistan and arrested at gunpoint the Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan, the King of Baluchistan.”
Majalla asked Rudam Azad Baloch about the recent warnings issued by the IRGC chief. Rudam explained that Iranian regime brutality and discriminatory policies against the Baloch people is nothing new as it has been gone on for more than a century.
The Baluchistan Liberation Movement, a political party which is led by Hyrbyair Marri, is demanding an end to Iranian and Pakistani occupation of Baluchistan. Mr Marri has “condemned Iran’s use of force against peaceful protestors and urged the UN to hold Iran accountable for its war crimes against the Baloch nation.”
Rudam Azad Baloch said that the protests will continue as the “Baloch people’s collective demand is for the restoration of sovereignty of Baluchistan.” He added that, “Baloch people are getting united and there is a clear sign of a stronger movement in Baloch, as we are reaching out to our Al Ahwaz Arab nationals as well as the Kurds who are also facing an Iranian invasion. We are also optimistic that the regional powers will listen our voices.”
On Friday, 28 October, the United Nations issued a statement condemning "all incidents that have resulted in death or serious injury to protesters" in Iran and reiterated "that security forces must avoid all unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters." UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: "Those responsible must be held to account," adding that the UN was urging Tehran "to address the legitimate grievances of the population, including with respect to women's rights."
But the UN’s condemnations fell on deaf ears, as just one day later Hossein Salami, Commander of Iran’s elite force, the IRGC, issued one of the toughest warnings yet and rights groups continued reporting on more bloodshed across cities in Iran.
Salami’s words should be taken seriously when he says “Do not come to the streets! Today is the last day of the riots. This sinister plan, is a plan hatched in the White House and the Zionist regime (…). Don’t sell your honor to America and don’t slap the security forces who are defending you in the face,” said Salami.
“From Zahedan to Shiraz, I sacrifice my life for Iran”
The largest gathering was at the central Tehran branch of Islamic Azad University, but other protests occurred on the University’s North Tehran campus. Security forces responded by using teargas and firing pellet guns.
As protests persist, Iranian leaders are continuing with their baseless and brainless propaganda that Iran’s foreign enemies are behind the protests that have engulfed the entire nation. There were reports of bloodshed and renewed protests even after Salami’s warnings. Various human rights groups and activists’ posts on Twitter and other social media platforms show a rapid rise in attacks on university campuses and dormitories.
Human rights group Hengaw, among others, reported that the security forces opened fire on students at a girls' school in the city of Saqqez (the birthplace of Zhina Amini) and at a medical university in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province. Several students were injured, with one of them shot in the head.
Similar scenes were reported at Tehran University’s Faculty of Engineering. Students at Qazvin International University chanted the slogan: “From Zahedan to Shiraz, I sacrifice my life for Iran.” At Mazandaran University, the crowds chanted: “If we do not stand together, we are killed one by one.” At some universities, students had dismantled partition walls in canteens which were put there to separate men and women.
A university in Mashhad was stormed by plainclothes forces, who repelled outsiders attempting to rescue the students. In what appeared to be violent raids on dormitories in Ahvaz, Sanandaj, Mashhad and Tehran, IRGC operatives were tasering and dragging students on floors before brutally forcing them into security vehicles.
Majalla approached Hengaw on 31 October and we were issued with the following statement “More than 45 days have passed since the uprisings started in Kurdistan. On the 40th day after Zhina's burial, tens of thousands of people gathered in Aichi cemetery, where Zhina Amini's grave is. They chanted "Jin, Jiyan, Azadî" and sang the Kurdish anthem "Ay Reqib." This number of people hasn't been seen since the start of uprisings in Iran to protest against the regime. At least 16 Kurdish civilians were killed by regime forces following the ceremony marking the 40th day since Zhina's burial, bringing the total number of people murdered in the uprisings to 57.”
Rights groups including Amnesty International have estimated that Iran’s Stormtroopers have killed between 255 and 300 protesters, including 45 minors. However, the Iranian leaders deny the charges and nonsensically claim that some of those deaths were down to suicides, road incidents and health issues unrelated to the protests.
Intensifying Crackdown on Journalists and Rights Activists
The crackdown is widening and, according to rights groups, up to 20,000 arrests have been made. The first trial took place in Tehran on 29 October, when five detained protesters were formally charged with “corruption on earth” and “waging war on God,” both of which are punishable by the death penalty under Iran’s judicial laws.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency, citing the Chief Justice of Tehran, said that the trials of about 1,000 people “who have carried out acts of sabotage in recent events, including assaulting or martyring security guards, and setting fire to public property” would take place in a Revolutionary Court. The trials will take place in public this week, the statement adds.
A number of journalists are also among the detainees, including Niloufar Hamedi, the journalist who published the photo of the murdered Kurdish woman Zhina Amini on a hospital bed. Hamedi, along with another female journalist Elahe Mohammadi, have been arrested and accused of being “CIA agents.” A statement released by the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Ministry and the Intelligence Organization of IRGC alleged that two female journalists were on a mission called “Iran’s Destruction Project.” The statement reads “using the cover of a journalist, she (Hamedi) was one of the first people to arrive at the hospital and provoked the relatives of the deceased [referring to Amini] and published targeted news.”
In the case of Elahe Mohammadi, the IRGC and the Intelligence Ministry also accused her as being a CIA agent. “She [Mohammadi] immediately attended the funeral ceremony of Mahsa Amini in her birthplace Saqqez to provoke her relatives by circulating the news and images of the funeral ceremony and burial,” adds the statement.
Mehdi Rahmanian, the editor of the Shargh Reformist Daily for which Hamedi worked as a journalist, has strongly denied that Hamedi was working as a “foreign agent.”
The Tehran Journalists’ Association has demanded the release of Hamedi and Mohammadi, the two journalists to whom we should be grateful for making known the killing of Amini.
Before ending the interview with PAK spokesperson Sanani, Majalla asked “What does the future hold for Iran as a Republic and for the Kurds?’ He gave an optimistic reply – “Eventually, conditions must be created in which people can exercise their right to do what they want. No one should make decisions for anyone. The Kurds hope to decide their own destiny through the ballot box. The Kurds are for freedom. Freedom means the will of man to make decisions.” For the sake of all those innocent people who have lost their lives and for those who will continue to die in the struggle for freedom and dignity, we can only hope that he is correct.