More Violence and Death in Southern Iran

**Thursday PM Update to this post** The Iran Focus website is now reporting that at least 62 have been killed and over 1,000 arrested in the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan…

At least 62 people have been killed and over 1,000 arrested in the week-long clashes between people and security forces in Iran’s southern Khuzestan province, according to the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran.

Fierce fighting has brought the province to a complete stand-still since Friday, when State Security Forces (SSF) opened fire on a 3,000-strong anti-government demonstration in the city of Ahwaz.

The residents who were mainly ethnic Arabs were complaining of government plans to redefine the ethnic make-up of the province.

Wednesday PM Original Posting:

Scores of protesters are feared dead in revolts against the Iranian government in Ahwaz. According to Iran Focus News:

Iran’s southern Khuzestan province was the scene of further chaos today as another round of fierce fighting erupted between people and government forces, following severe clashes several days ago which left dozens dead and hundreds wounded or arrested.

The latest clashes broke out this morning between Iran’s State Security Forces (SSF) and local residents in several districts of the city of Ahwaz, including Kut Abdullah, Kian and Khashayar.

Ahwaz, close to the Iraqi border, is a major hub of Iranian ethnic minority groups, and its largely Arab population has faced brutal repression under clerical rule.

On Friday anti-government protests erupted in Ahwaz once Iran’s State Security Forces were dispatched to quell some 3,000 angry residents who were complaining of government plans to redefine the ethnic make-up of the province.

The insurgency has spread to other towns in the Khousestan area. The regime is keeping a lid on the number of casualties:

Reportedly, in various towns and villages around Khouzestan, young protestors have been involved in heavy fighting with Islamic guards. Yesterday’s clashes between the guards and protestors in port town of Maahshahr is reported to have gone on for many hours. The anti-demonstration forces of the regime attacked demonstrators and heavily injured many.

Eyewitnesses report that 7 young protesters were brutally murdered at the hands of the guards though the Homeland Ministry refuses to admit to killing any more than 2 people, claiming in fact that the two deaths were accidental.

The clashes are now in day 4 (this reported on Tuesday). In yesterday’s protests, demonstrators fought back with sticks, rocks and bricks, against the machinegun toting anti-riot guards of the regime. Demonstrators also took to burning tires in the middle of the streets of their towns.

Scores are still jailed after Friday’s protests:

“Two hundred out of 344 arrested people have been released,” Amir Khani, state prosecutor in Khuzestan’s capital Ahwaz, said on Wednesday.

“The rest could be released on bail if their families pay. The main people responsible for the disorder number at least 10, and they will be strongly confronted by the judiciary.”

During the violence, which began on Friday and continued until Sunday, groups of Iranian-Arabs smashed and set fire to police cars, banks and government offices and clashed with security forces who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

There is a growing resistance to fundamentalist policy as Michael Ledeen from National Review explains:

Iranians are responding. On April 18, employees at the Isfahan courthouse demonstrated against the sexist policies of the regime, calling for equal rights for women. This was not the sort of “student” demonstration so readily dismissed by Western cynics, for several judges joined the protesters. Even more remarkable was a speech in parliament by a representative named Akbar Alami, in which he said that the Islamic republic was no longer legitimate, that 80 million Iranians are now effectively enslaved by a few hundred corrupt thieves, and that the regime now stands for terrorism and the denial of human rights to the country’s citizens.

Student protesters in bold statements threaten Khatami:

Students leading Iran’s wave of pro-reform protests criticized President Mohammad Khatami on Wednesday for being too soft on hard-line rivals and said reform in the Islamic Republic may move quicker without him.

While recent student rallies involving thousands of people in the past month have lambasted hard-line strongholds such as the judiciary, Khatami himself has not escaped criticism, with many calling for him to resign.

“Some students may have come to the conclusion that his absence would help reforms proceed better and exert more pressure on those who hold power,” Reza Delbari, a leading member of the Islamic Students’ Association at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, told a news conference.

The group has been instrumental in organizing the biggest protests in Iran for three years and has led calls for a national referendum to decide on the country’s political future.

And, while traditionally peaceful, the recent student protests have been violent…

While largely peaceful, recent protests have turned violent with hundreds arrested by baton-wielding police on Saturday and Islamic vigilantes attacking rallies on Monday and Tuesday.

Delbari said around 12 students had been arrested in Tehran since Saturday and some others were missing. There had also been student arrests in Isfahan and Shiraz, he said.

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