Local Police in South Iran Accused of Killing Two Protesters
Protests in Kazeroon Ongoing For Months Over Plan to Divide City
At least two people are suspected to have been killed and several wounded after police in the south-western Iranian city of Kazeroon opened fire on a crowd in front of a police station where their relatives were detained for protesting the planned partition of the city, a resident told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 17, 2018.
“On the night of May 16, some people, including friends and families of the detainees, were chanting slogans in front of the police station waiting for their relatives to be freed as had been promised by the local police chief,” said the source on condition of anonymity due to the fear of reprisals from state forces for speaking publicly about the case.
Continued the source: “But policemen came out of the station and said the detainees were not going to be freed tonight and warned the crowd they would be arrested if they did not leave. A number of people resisted and said they were going to spend the night there but when the police tried to arrest some of them, the people came to their aid and shots were fired at the crowd and about 10 people fell to the ground.”
Added the source: “The people who were at the scene said one person died on the spot, a couple of people had minor wounds, and seven others who were bleeding heavily were taken to the hospital where it is said two of them died from serious wounds. But the police have not allowed relatives to enter the hospital to find out the truth.”
The source added that there was a heavy security presence, including reinforcements from Shiraz and nearby cities, in Kazeroon on May 17 following the violence of the previous night.
Local media reported on May 16 that three people had been killed. But the Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), claimed one person died and six were wounded after protesters allegedly tried to burn down the entrance to the police station.
Kazeroon, located 88 miles west of the Fars Province capital city of Shiraz, has been experiencing protests for months since the announcement of a plan to divide the city into two.
During the afternoon of May 16, when residents heard the plan had been finalized, hundreds poured into the streets where police arrested about 20 people and transferred them to the 13th Bonyad Police Station.
The day after the bloody incident, the Interior Ministry issued a statement announcing it was suspending plans “to take the concerns of the honorable people of Kazeroon into account.”
In its report, Fars said the plan to attach parts of Kazeroon to a nearby village and create a new city called Kouhchenar was first introduced by local Member of Parliament Hossein Rezazadeh and was eventually approved by the National Divisions Council.
“The part that is supposed to be detached from Kazeroon is a historic area with greater water resources and the people believe the lawmaker who proposed it wants to attach it to the village where he was born instead of attending to the people’s real problems,” said the local resident who spoke to CHRI.
In its May 17 statement announcing the suspension of the division, the Interior Ministry made no mention of bullets fired by the police or casualties among the protesters. But it did warn that anyone trying to “disturb order and public safety” would be “firmly dealt with.”
“We call on the enlightened and pious people of Kazeroon to observe calm and preserve their revolutionary vigilance against enemies and anti-revolutionary websites that have evil designs against this land. Do not allow insecurity to take over the peace in the area,” said the statement.
Mohammad Khorsand, the city’s Friday prayer leader, also blamed the disturbances on “rumors” spread on the internet.
“There’s no control over cyberspace,” he told the reformist Etemad newspaper on May 17. “The enemies take advantage of cyberspace and inflame the situation by spreading false rumors. Our advice to the people is that they should not trust what they see on cyberspace and instead follow the news through the official media.”
But sources told CHRI that the alleged “rumors” about the final approval of the city’s division were in fact spread by individuals close to Khorsand, who had himself been a vocal opponent of the plan.
“News about the plan being finalized, which is now being called a ‘rumor’ out of fear, was spread by the Friday prayer leader Mr. Khorsand whose relative quoted him on Telegram saying that he was not able to do anything about the plan now that it had been approved.”
Reacting to violent events in Kazeroon, former political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi tweeted: “The answer to peaceful protests and rallies by the people of Kazeroon is not suppression, bullets, batons and imprisonment. Kazeroon is soaking in blood because you are ignorant, you have no principles, you don’t act according to the law and you don’t know how to run a country. You believe in nothing but violence and tyranny!”
Iranian user “Sheida” tweeted, “The Islamic Republic turns the most insignificant protests into a bloodbath” and “Israel and the Islamic Republic are in close competition on how many innocent people they can kill.”
Another former political prisoner, Majid Dorri, tweeted: “The problems of the past 40 years [since the 1979 revolution] are raising their heads. The environment, drought, unemployment, inflation, hopelessness and … Yesterday there were rallies in Isfahan [over water disputes], today its Kazeroon and tomorrow…? You cannot suppress protests with guards, anti-riot forces, bullets and killings.”