Protesters in southeast Iran stormed a government building on Tuesday, a day after security forces reportedly shot dead several civilian fuel traders, according to Iranian media and online videos.
Videos shared on social media showed dozens of protesters inside the governor’s office in the city of Saravan. Another video showed a police car flipped and set on fire.
Saravan is a city in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which according to official figures, is Iran’s poorest province. Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, is mostly populated by Sunni ethnic Baluchis, a minority in the predominantly Shia Iran.
The protests come after ten Baluchi fuel traders were killed and five others were wounded in Saravan near the border with Pakistan by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to the Europe-based rights group Baluchi Activists Campaign, which monitors human rights violations in Sistan-Baluchestan.
Facing dire poverty, violent repression, and constant violations of their dignity Iranians in the city of #Saravan have rebelled against the Islamic Republic.— Cameron Khansarinia (@khansarinia) February 23, 2021
They have entered government offices and the regime has shut off the Internet.#سراوان #سراوان_تنها_نیست #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/ES1ayBisuv
The group said that the IRGC opened fire on the fuel traders after they protested the closure of a border crossing which prevented them from transferring fuel across the border with Pakistan.
Iranian regime is now attacking Baluch minorities in their Covid-stricken and impoverished towns, killing struggling dwellers and shutting down their internet when they protest.— Marjan مرجان (@MarjanKg) February 23, 2021
This follows an uptick of Baluch executions since January. #سراوان#Saravan pic.twitter.com/XH97cOYeOR
Mohammad Hadi Marashi, Sistan-Baluchestan governor’s deputy security chief, confirmed that two fuel traders had been killed, saying that one of them had been shot dead by Pakistani border guards.
Marashi also confirmed today’s attack on the governor’s office in Saravan, saying protesters dispersed after breaking some windows.
Marashi blamed the unrest on “anti-revolutionary” groups, a term Iran uses to refer to its opposition.
A number of protesters were injured by gunfire and tear gas, the Baluchi Activists Campaign said.
Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric, Molavi Abdulhamid, issued a statement on Tuesday protesting the killing of Baluchi fuel traders, calling it “a crime.”
“I urge the authorities to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of this tragic incident as soon as possible,” Abdulhamid, who is the Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, said.
Many in Sistan-Baluchestan rely on moving and selling untaxed fuel across the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan as their primary source of income due to poverty and unemployment.
Iran considers it as illegal smuggling, and dozens of fuel traders are killed every year by Iranian border guards, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates.