At least 63 killed in Iran suppression of Zahedan protest: Human rights group

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At least 63 people were killed last week when Iranian security forces “bloodily suppressed” a protest in the city of Zahedan in southeastern Iran, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO said on Tuesday.

The clashes erupted after Friday prayers last week in Zahedan, the capital of the Sistan-Baluchistan province which is home to the Baluch ethnic minority who largely adhere to Sunni Islam and not the Shiism predominant in Iran.

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The incident took place in the midst of the nationwide demonstrations that erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the morality police.

But rights groups have said the protest in Zahedan was sparked by accusations that a police chief in the port city of Chabahar, also in Sistan-Baluchistan, had raped a 15-year-old Baluch girl.

“On September 30, people gathered after Friday prayer in Zahedan to protest against the rape of a Baluch 15-year-old girl by Chabahar’s police chief, which was bloodily suppressed by security forces,” IHR said, raising a previous toll of 41.

Accounts posted on social media at the time had spoken of dozens of dead in Zahedan on Friday while images had shown overwhelmed hospitals and bloodied corpses.

There have also been reports of victims dying in hospitals due to lack of beds and bandages to stop the bleeding.

Activists have also charged that security forces have shot at protesters from helicopters. IHR said four people driving in an open roof car were shot and killed by fire from a military helicopter in north Zahedan.

Specialised NGO the Baluch Activists Campaign has published on its Telegram channel the names of all 67 of those it says were killed, adding that 300 were wounded.

Iranian state media have, however, said that five members of the Revolutionary Guards were killed in what it described as a “terrorist incident.”

The police chief in Sistan-Baluchistan had said on state television that three police stations were attacked in the province.

Sistan-Baluchistan, which neighbors Pakistan, is one of Iran’s poorest regions. Activists have complained over the last months that Baluch convicts were being executed in disproportionate numbers as hangings surged in the Islamic Republic.

The region has also seen regular clashes between the security forces and drug smuggling gangs as well as occasional attacks by Sunni Muslim extremist groups.

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