Iranian Security Forces Arrest Dozens as Protests Commemorate “Bloody Friday”
In the southeast region of Iran, protesters gathered to commemorate the killing of dozens of demonstrators one year ago. Human rights groups reported that Iranian security forces made numerous arrests during the demonstrations. The violence that occurred on September 30 last year, known as “Bloody Friday,” resulted in the deaths of at least 104 people in Zahedan, the main city of Sistan-Baluchistan province. This day marked the deadliest day of the months-long protests that took place throughout Iran.
The protests in Zahedan were triggered by reports of a teenage girl being raped in custody by a police commander. These demonstrations occurred simultaneously with nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, who was arrested in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code. Activists have long voiced concerns about discrimination against the ethnic Baluch population in Sistan-Baluchistan, who adhere to Sunni Islam rather than the dominant Shiite branch in Iran.
Security forces used tear gas and live rounds for a second consecutive day to disperse protesters in Zahedan who gathered to mark the anniversary. The Baluch-focused rights group Haalvsh reported that businesses in Zahedan and other towns observed a general strike, and “dozens” of people were arrested. Videos shared on social media captured the sound of gunfire amidst a heavy security presence in the city. On Friday, security forces had already used live fire, injuring at least 25 people, including children, according to the Baloch Activists Campaign group. There is currently no information on casualties from Saturday’s unrest.
Despite the decline of the protest movement in other parts of Iran, residents of Zahedan have continued to hold regular Friday protests over the past year. Molavi Abdolhamid, the city’s Friday prayer leader, who has been vocal in his support of the protests, issued a new call for justice regarding “Bloody Friday,” urging the faithful to be aware of their rights. Disturbing footage shared on social media showed chaotic scenes in hospitals filled with injured individuals, including children, while people on the streets sought safety amidst the sound of heavy gunfire.
The Iran Human Rights NGO, based in Norway, stated that the protests in Zahedan and other cities were once again “brutally crushed” by authorities using live ammunition, pellet bullets, and tear gas against unarmed protesters. Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, condemned the “horrifying display of indiscriminate violence” as the state attempts to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Ghaemi emphasized the importance of the international community shining a spotlight on this violence and holding Iranian officials accountable in international courts, invoking the principle of international jurisdiction.
The events in Zahedan highlight ongoing tensions and grievances within Iran’s ethnic Baluch population. The discrimination they face, coupled with allegations of human rights abuses, has fueled persistent protests. As the international community becomes increasingly aware of these issues, it is crucial to continue advocating for justice and accountability. By shedding light on the plight of these marginalized communities, there is hope for a more inclusive and equitable future in Iran.