Iranian security forces cracked down on protests in Kurdish areas of the country on Saturday and briefly detained the father of Mahsa Amini, a year after the young woman’s death in custody set off some of the worst political unrest in four decades.
State-affiliated media reported arrests of several “counter-revolutionaries” and “terrorists” in different Iranian cities and said security forces had foiled plots to create disturbances around illegal demonstrations.
The death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman arrested by the morality police last year for allegedly flouting mandatory dress codes, drew international condemnation and triggered months of some of the biggest protests ever seen against the Islamic Republic’s Shi’ite clerical rule.
As night fell on Saturday, a heavy security force presence in Iran’s mostly Kurdish areas appeared to have deterred large-scale protest rallies. Human rights groups, however, reported sporadic confrontations in several areas of the country.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Saturday detained a dual national suspected of “trying to organize unrest and sabotage,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
Earlier, social media and reports by rights groups spoke of security forces taking up positions around Amini’s home in Saqez, in western Iran.
On Saturday, Mahsa Amini was remembered during protests that took place in Iran and around the world, including Istanbul, London, Berlin and Brussels.
Many called for an end to more than four decades of Shia clerical rule in Iran.
According to social media posts, Amini’s parents had said in a statement earlier this week that, despite government warnings, they would hold a “traditional and religious anniversary ceremony” at their daughter’s grave in Saqez.
Fire breaks out in Iranian prison
Videos posted on social media showed people gathered on a main avenue in the capital Tehran cheering a young protesting couple as drivers honked their car horns in support.
The IRNA news agency reported that fire engulfed the women’s ward at the Qarchak prison in Tehran province before being put out after convicts awaiting execution set fire to their clothes. There were no casualties, according to the report.
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network, which said the incident was linked to the protests, said special forces entered the ward, beat up the women and fired pellet bullets.
In a separate incident, human rights group Hengaw said security forces opened fire in the Kurdish city of Mahabad, wounding at least one person. It also said several people were wounded in the city of Kermanshah but there was no official confirmation of either incident.
In Amini’s hometown of Saqez, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that police using a pellet gun had seriously injured a man who “ignored a police warning.” It said the man was in an intensive care ward after undergoing an operation but provided no more detail.
Social media posts showed footage of people shouting out slogans such as “Death to the Dictator!” against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The posts came from cities including Tehran as well as from protests in Gohardasht, a neighbourhood in the city of Karaj, and in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran.
One video posted on social media showed a group of demonstrators in Gohardasht chanting, “We are a great nation, and will take back Iran” while drivers honked their horns and shouted encouragement. Reuters could not immediately authenticate the video.
In the protests that followed Amini’s death last year, more than 500 people, including 71 minors, were killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested, rights groups said. Iran carried out seven executions linked to the unrest.
‘Arbitrary arrest and detention’
In a report last month, Amnesty International said Iranian authorities “have been subjecting victims’ families to arbitrary arrest and detention, imposing cruel restrictions on peaceful gatherings at grave sites, and destroying victims’ gravestones.”
Many journalists, lawyers, activists, students, academics, artists, public figures and members of ethnic minorities accused of links with the protest wave, as well as relatives of protesters killed in the unrest, have been arrested, summoned, threatened or fired from jobs in the past few weeks, according to Iranian and Western human rights groups.
Iran’s Etemad daily reported in August that the lawyer for Amini’s family also faced charges of “propaganda against the system.” If convicted, Saleh Nikbakht faces a jail sentence of between one and three years.