Middle East

Iranian police open fire at Tehran metro station and beat women on train

Iranian security forces have opened fire on people at a metro station in Tehran and beaten women who were not wearing mandatory hair coverings as protests over the death of Mahsa Amini entered a third month.

Footage shared on social media showed passengers running towards exits, with many falling and being trampled, after police opened fire on a crowded platform. Police were also filmed through train windows marching through carriages and beating women with batons.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, died in the custody of the morality police on 16 September after her arrest for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Demonstrations intensified on Tuesday, when protest organisers called for three days of action to commemorate “Bloody November” of 2019, when hundreds were killed during protests against raising fuel prices.

“We’ll fight! We’ll die! We’ll take back Iran!” dozens of protesters could be heard chanting around a bonfire on a Tehran street, in a video published by the 1500tasvir social media monitor. Protesters were also recorded chanting and setting headscarves on fire in metro stations. Agence France-Presse reported that six people had died around the country in overnight clashes.

Metro stations and public transport – often patrolled by morality police – had become a site of state violence and surveillance of female citizens in the summer during a crackdown on female clothing.

At the beginning of September, the secretary of Iran’s headquarters for promoting virtue and preventing vice, Mohammad Saleh Hashemi Golpayegani, announced that the government was planning to use face recognition technology to target women recorded on public transport security cameras.

In a separate development on Wednesday state media said at least five people had been killed in what it described as a terrorist attack at a market in the city of Izeh in the south-western province of Khuzestan.

Iran’s ethnic Arab minority, who mostly live in Khuzestan, have joined the protests triggered by Amini’s death. “Five people were killed in the terrorist attack, including one child, one woman and three men,” a local official Valiollah Hayati told state TV. The semi-official Isna news agency said two members of Iran’s volunteer Basij militia were among those killed.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency said the seminary school at Izeh was set on fire by anti-government protesters. Videos on social media showed the building on fire while gunshots could be heard. It was not possible to verify the circumstances in which people had died.

More than 300 people have been killed by security forces over two months of protests, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR). The group says 15,000 people have been arrested, a figure the Iranian authorities deny.

Five protesters have so far been sentenced to death. Earlier this month, 272 of Iran’s 290 lawmakers voted to implement the death penalty for serious crimes against the state, and repeated demands by some officials to take a harder line against unrest that shows little sign of abating.

The vote has become the subject of misleading information that all 15,000 of those arrested have been sentenced to death. The claim has been repeatedly posted on social media, including by high-profile people such as the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

Nevertheless, a potential wave of executions is a serious concern. “We fear mass executions, unless the political cost of executions increases significantly,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of IHR. “The international community must send a strong warning to the Islamic republic that execution of protesters will have severe consequences.”


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