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Iran Strikes Kurdish Opposition Groups in Northern Iraq

The death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in police custody has set off an intense wave of protests across Iran over the past 10 days, igniting fury particularly in the country’s Kurdish minority community.

Women protesting the killing of Mahsa Amini in Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, on Saturday.Credit...Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Iranian forces unleashed drone and artillery attacks on the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Monday, targeting what Tehran said were bases of militant Iranian Kurdish separatist groups there, according to a semiofficial news agency.

The attacks by the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were the second in three days against Iranian militants based in Iraq, according to the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.

The new strikes occurred as Iran was reeling from 10 days of protests over the killing of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurdish woman, in police custody. She had been accused of violating the country’s strict codes on modest dress for women. The largest antigovernment movement since the country’s 2009 Green Revolution, the protest has thrust Iran into turmoil that has cut across ethnic and social divides.

The unrest has been especially intense in northwest Iran, where many members of the country’s Kurdish minority live.

Several Iranian opposition paramilitary groups maintain bases near the border in neighboring Iraq, and the Tasmin news agency accused them of causing chaos in towns along Iran’s northwestern border with Iraq. On Sunday, Iranian security forces appeared to have retaken the small, predominantly Kurdish city of Oshnavieh in that area after protesters had seized it over the weekend.

The Revolutionary Guards bombarded villages in Iraq’s northern region of Sedekan for almost eight hours on Monday, according to the mayor of the Sedekan a district, Ihsan Chalabi. “Thankfully, no one was hurt, but farmers lost farm buildings and sheep,” he said, adding that the farm families were evacuated when the shelling started about 8 a.m. The catalyst for the protests raging across Iran was the death of Ms. Amini on Sept. 16, three days after she was arrested in the capital, Tehran, when she was swept up by the country’s notorious morality police. She had been a member of the Iranian Kurdish minority, which has long suffered discrimination, and her community’s rage in recent days reflects its longstanding grievances.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossain Amir Abdollahian, said in an interview with The New York Times on Saturday that the government was investigating what happened in the “very sad, tragic” case of Ms. Amini.

“Protests are acceptable but they should be peaceful,” he said. “But at the same time,” he added, Iran “responds to unrest, it responds to insecurities decisively and confronts them.”

He also said that “some foreign media” were provoking the Iranian people and that social networks “were mobilized in order to turn this into a thing against security and to instigate unrest inside Iran.” Social media has documented protests in eight more cities across Iran since late Sunday.

Ms. Amini's death has spurred protests from Iranians furious not only over the treatment of women under the country’s conservative clerical rulers, but also a host of other issues, including an economy crippled by years of sanctions and the pandemic.

Security forces have been cracking down violently against the protesters by opening fire, beating people and firing tear gas, according to witnesses and videos shared on social media. A rights group said at least 54 people had died since the protests began.

But internet blackouts have made it difficult to determine the scope of the government’s crackdown and have made it hard for the protesters to coordinate their actions.

The extraordinary scenes of dissent in Iran have spread around the world, as demonstrations have been staged in cities including Athens, Berlin, Istanbul, New York and Paris.

Iran’s judiciary chief said on Monday that security forces had not slept for several nights. He added that the authorities would severely punish those involved in the protests as a deterrent to others.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said on Sunday that the United States had taken “tangible steps” to punish Iran’s morality police.

“The fact that we are in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program is in no way impacting our willingness and our vehemence in speaking out about what is happening on the streets of Iran,” he said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The protesters appeared to be receiving increasing support from inside the country. Teachers’ unions in Iran have called for national strikes on Monday and Wednesday to oppose the violence against protesters and widespread arrests.

Public figures in Iran — including athletes, writers and musicians — have issued statements of solidarity.

A national fencing team captain, Mojtaba Abedini, resigned in support of the protesters. Even an author close to the government, Mostafa Mastoor, criticized the violence used to suppress the uprising.


(c) The New York Times 2022



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