MESOP REPORT : Kurdish unrest grows in Iran

MESOP REPORT : Kurdish unrest grows in Iran

The opposition Iranian Kurdish Freedom Party has threatened armed action against security forces.

BEIRUT – Unrest has mounted in Kurdish-populated areas of Iran, with an opposition party threatening armed action and security forces deploying heavily as protests have spread from Mahabad.Deadly demonstrations continued Monday in the northwestern city of Mahabad, where anger boiled over Thursday after a local woman jumped to her death from a hotel window, reportedly to avoid rape by an Iranian security officer.ARA News, a Syrian outlet close to the country’s Kurds, reported that at least six people have been killed in the ongoing demonstrations, while hundreds of others have been detained.The protests quickly spread outside of Mahabad, with demonstrations erupting in the Kurdish-populated town of Sardasht some 70 kilometers to the southwest. Iraqi Kurdish Rudaw News reported Sunday that police in Sardasht “attacked hundreds of protesters gathering to pledge support for fellow Kurds rallying against alleged injustice in Mahabad.” “Eyewitnesses said that when security forces tried to [disperse] the protest, violence broke out between police and protesters,” the agency said, adding that at least 30 people had been arrested. Meanwhile, the vice president of the Iranian opposition Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) Hussein Yazdanpana told Asharq Alawsat that demonstrations had also been held in the nearby towns of Bukan, Shina, Marivan and Sanandaj.

Amid the ongoing protests, Iranian security forces have mobilized in Kurdish-populated regions of the country in a bid to quell the wave of unrest.“The regime has brought a large number of its military and security forces from Esfahan, Hamedan and Kerman to Kurdish cities to take control of the situation,” the PAK’s vice president said in an interview Sunday.“These forces are attacking defenseless Kurds and repressing the demonstrators, but luckily the people are [taking to] the streets and public squares of those cities through willpower.” Meanwhile, a local activist told Asharq Alawsat that the “Iranian regime had “mobilized a large number of its forces in Iranian Kurdistan’s cities [and towns], and cut the internet and other means of communications, such as telephone lines and mobile [networks].” The PAK’s official spokesperson told ARA News Monday that “the Revolutionary Guards and intelligence agents of the Iranian regime forces were deployed in Iranian Kurdish areas, blocking the roads to prevent protestors from reaching governmental institutions.”“The anti-riot police, the guard forces, intelligence and the forces of the Basij (mobilization) were intensely deployed across the city of Mahabad on Sunday. The mission of these forces is to prevent citizens from gathering at any public place in Mahabad,” Shamal Bokani told the news outlet. He added that security forces had also detained “dozens of Kurdish activists” in Iranian Kurdish areas for organizing protests against the government.

PAK threatens armed action

Amid the tense situation in northwestern Iran where further escalations of violence seem likely, the PAK issued a statement warning that the party’s General Peshmerga Command was ready to deploy in Iranian Kurdish areas. The PAK is a relatively small Iranian Kurdish party that has largely moved into exile in Iraqi Kurdistan, following the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. Not much is known about the strength of the party in Iran, however a Kurdish official told ARA News that that the PAK could credibly threaten violence. “The Kurdish PAK party has sleeper cells in all the Kurdish cities in Iran; it is easy to respond to Iranian security forces,” Kurdish Youth Movement official Majeed Temir told the outlet.

The PAK’s vice-president told the Saudi-owned Asharq Alawsat that his party has formed an operations room to direct organization of the protests and any armed actions against Iranian security forces. “We have called on residents to pack the streets with as many demonstrators [as possible] and keep the demonstrations peaceful for the moment,” he said. “At the present time the Peshmerga Kurdistan Iran forces want the streets to be packed with demonstrators.” However, Yazdanpana added that “there are Kurdish fighters close to the people inside the cities and they will move at the appropriate time.”“Peshmerga Kurdistan Iran has been forced to take military action in some areas, including an attack launched against an Iranian military force coming from the city of Urmia to Shino.”The Kurdish official also claimed that an attack had been carried out against a security forces headquarters in Mahabad, however Iranian press reports made no mention of any armed incidents. “We expect more of these reprisal activities in the coming days,” he added.