Casualties and Arrests Mount As Iranian Protests Continue
At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested since a wave of protests hit several Iranian cities on December 28, 2017.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned of nearly 100 arrests in Neishabour and at least 20 others in Sabzevar. Both cities are located in Khorasan Razavi Province, where the protests began in the city of Mashhad on December 28.
A source with first-hand knowledge of Iran’s prisons told CHRI on the condition of anonymity that many of the detained protesters have been transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran and Rajaee Shahr Prison located west of the capital in the city of Karaj.
In Evin, more than 200 inmates in one ward were transferred to other wards to make room for the new detainees. In Rajaee Shahr, authorities allocated a hall with the capacity of more than 150 prisoners to make room for the new detainees, according to the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
General Ramazan Sharif, a spokesman for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said on January 1 that the IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters is responsible for maintaining security in Tehran and that the Basij volunteer militia force has been dispatched to assist the police in various parts of the country.
“In some of the provincial cities we received requests from the Basij to help the police,” said Sharif in an interview with Entekhab newspaper. “We helped them after necessary coordination with Basij Commander General Gholam-Hossein Gheibparvar.”
Asked if the IRGC had taken part in efforts to quell the protests, the spokesman said, “So far the police have not felt any particular need for the IRGC to step in. The incidents so far have been too insignificant to require the IRGC’s intervention.”
The state-funded Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) reported on January 1 that at least 19 people were killed in the cities of Shahinshahr (Isfahan Province), Tuyserkan (Hamadan Province), and Dorud (Lorestan Province). While the exact causes of death were not specified, security forces have been instructed to quell the protests.
The locations of all the deaths were also not specified, however, according to IRIB, six protestors were killed in Tuyserkan, three in Shahinshahr, and four in Dorud. Two people were also killed in the city of Izeh (Khuzestan Province), according to a local lawmaker.
“Like some other cities in the country, the people of Izeh also gathered to protest economic difficulties, which unfortunately led to the deaths of two people and injury to a number of others,” said the city’s parliamentary representative, Hedayatollah Khademi, in an interview with the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on January 1.
No official reports have been provided regarding the number of injured protesters. Hundreds have been arrested throughout the country, including 15 Tehran University students.
On December 31, Aliasghar Nasserbakht, the deputy governor of the city of Tehran for security and police affairs, said there had been “about 200 arrests” in the capital. Another 52 were reportedly arrested in Mashhad on December 29.
An unnamed local official also told ILNA that “about 80 people” were arrested in the city of Arak, 170 miles south of Tehran.
IRIB’s branch in Golestan Province reported on December 31, “Efforts are underway to identify and arrest individuals behind the scenes in the real and cyber worlds who have been actively organizing illegal gatherings.”
The report continued: “The detained leaders of last night’s illegal gatherings in Gorgan were mainly involved in propaganda, calling people to assemble, offering anti-state slogans, guiding the protests, confronting the police, and inciting ordinary people to join the protests.”
The University Trade Unions’ Council of Iran (UTUCI) reported that 15 Tehran University students had been arrested during protests on December 31 and January 1. In addition, security forces arrested four members of the council’s branch at Tehran University.
“After a joint meeting between members of the Tehran University Trade Union Council and the chancellor to seek the freedom of students detained during the recent protests, four members of the council were arrested by the security forces as soon as they left the room,” the UTUCI said in a statement on January 1. “The remainder of the council’s members have stayed in the room to demand the release of the detained students and protest the lack of security.”
Leila Hassanzadeh, an undergraduate student in social sciences at Tehran University, is among the detained students, said a source close to the UTUCI.
The source, who asked not to be identified, also revealed that four students — Kasra Nouri, Faezeh Abdipour, Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddaml and Mohammad Reza Darvishi —started a hunger strike on December 30 after being detained by Intelligence Ministry agents and held in Evin Prison’s Ward 209.
Nouri is graduate student in human rights studies at Tehran University, Moghaddam is a student activist at Sharif University in Tehran, and Faezeh Abdipour is a student at Allameh Tabataba’i University, also in Tehran. No information is available on Mohammad Reza Darvishi.
All four are followers of a Muslim Sufi order known as the Gonabadi Dervishes, seen as a heretical cult by the Islamic Republic’s Shia establishment.
Two other Gonabadi Dervishes, Alireza Nikzadeh and Ebrahim Sharifi, were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry in Semnan and Isfahan provinces, the source added.