Anger Growing in Iran Protest Hotspots


SLIMANYA, Iraq (AP) — A 35-year-old college graduate who grew up in an oppressive system, Sharo never expected to hear words of outright rebellion yelled. She now chants slogans like “Death to the Dictator!” In her anger she didn’t know she had, as she participates in protests demanding the overthrow of her country’s ruler.

Sharo said anger against the authorities has only increased after three weeks of protests sparked by the death of a young woman in feared moral police custody.

“The situation here is tense and precarious,” she said, referring to one of the hotspots of the protests, the city of Sanandaj in northwestern Iran’s large Kurdish enclave of the same name.

“We’re just waiting for something like a time bomb to happen,” she told the Associated Press via Telegram’s messenger service.

The anti-government protests in Sanandaj, 300 miles (500 km) from the capital, are a microcosm of the leaderless protests that have roiled Iran.

Led mostly by women and young people, they ranged from spontaneous mass rallies in central areas to scattered demonstrations in residential areas, schools and universities as activists sought to evade an increasingly brutal crackdown. developed.

Tensions rose again in Sanandaj on Saturday after the Human Rights Observatory said two protesters had been shot dead and several others injured after demonstrations resumed. Residents said security was tight in the city, with patrols and guards stationed on the main streets at all times.

The Associated Press spoke to six female activists in Sanandaji, who said repression tactics such as beatings, arrests, the use of live ammunition and Internet chaos can make it difficult to maintain momentum. Protests continue, along with other manifestations of civil disobedience such as striking and motorists honking at security forces.

Activists in the city spoke on condition of not giving their full names for fear of reprisal by Iranian authorities. Their testimony was corroborated by three human rights monitors.


Three weeks ago, news of the death of 22-year-old Masa Amini in custody of Tehran’s morality police quickly spread through her native Kurdistan, whose capital is Sanandaj. The response in poor and historically marginalized areas was swift.

Activists said protesters had already filled Sanandaj’s main thoroughfare when a burial was taking place in Amini’s town of Saquez on Sept. 17.

People of all ages attended and began chanting slogans that were repeated in cities across Iran. life. Freedom. “

Ahsana, a 38-year-old clothing designer from Saqez, said the Amini family was under pressure from the government and Mahsa was asked to be buried quickly before a critical mass of protesters formed. It says. That day she was at her burial and followed a crowd from her cemetery to the city square.

Royama, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom, didn’t know Amini personally. But when she heard that a young woman had died in Tehran’s moral police custody and had been arrested for violating the Islamic Republic’s hijab rules, she was forced to take to the streets that day. She felt no.

“The same thing happened to me,” she said. In 2013, like Amini, she went out to the capital with a friend, but was arrested by the Morality Police because her abaya or loose-fitting robe, part of the dress code, was too short. I was taken to the same facility where I was fingerprinted and made to sign a guilty plea.

“It could have been me,” she said. Since then, Rozan, a former nurse, has been fired from the local government health department for being too vocal about her views on women’s rights.

After the funeral, she saw an elderly woman step forward and with a quick gesture remove her headscarf.


During the first three days after the burial, protesters were arrested in Sanandaj and pulled from demonstrators. By the end of the week, arrests targeted known activists and protest organizers.

Lawyer Dunya said she was one of a small group of women’s rights activists who helped organize the protests. They also asked shop owners to respect calls for commercial strikes along the city’s main streets.

“Almost all the women in our group are in prison now,” she said.

Internet outages made it difficult for protesters to communicate between cities and with the outside world.

“We woke up in the morning and had no idea what was going on,” said Sharo, a college graduate. The internet came back intermittently, often again late at night or during working hours, but was quickly cut off in the late afternoon when many people gathered to protest.

The presence of heavy security guards also discouraged large gatherings.

“There are patrols on almost every street, and even if there are only two or three people walking down the street, they separate groups,” says Sharo.

During the demonstration, security forces fired pellet guns and tear gas into the crowd, causing many to flee. Security personnel on motorcycles also rode into the crowd in an attempt to disperse them.

All activists interviewed said they saw or heard live ammunition. Iranian officials have so far denied this and have accused separatist groups if live ammunition was confirmed to have been used.2 killed Saturday in Sanandaj, according to France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network One protester was killed by live ammunition.

Protesters say fear is a close companion. Injured people were often reluctant to use ambulances or go to hospitals for fear of being arrested. Activists also suspected that government informants were trying to blend in with the crowd.

But resistance continues.

“I can assure you that the protests are not over yet,” Sharo said. “People are angry and talking back to the police in ways I’ve never seen.”


Anger runs deep. Sanandaj’s history of Kurdish resistance, rising poverty, and a long history of women’s rights activism have combined to make the city a ripe place for protests.

Human Rights Watch researcher Tara Seperi Farz said the protests were not defined along ethnic or regional lines, even though they took place in a predominantly Kurdish area. . “It was very unique in that sense,” she said.

Iran has seen a wave of protests in recent years, with the biggest protests of 2009 seeing huge crowds take to the streets after protesters felt the election was stolen. But continued defiance and calls for regime change in the current wave appear to be the most serious challenge for the Islamic Republic in years.

Like much of Iran, Sanandaj has suffered as US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic have ravaged its economy and spurred inflation. On the country’s frontiers, far from the capital, Kurdish majority residents are viewed with suspicion by the regime.

By the third week when colleges and schools opened, students began holding small gatherings and participating in movements.

Videos circulating on social media show schoolgirls teasing the principal, taking off their headscarves in the street and chanting: “If we don’t unite, we’ll be killed one after another.”

One college student said he was planning to boycott classes altogether.

Clothing designer Ahsana said she likes wearing headscarves. “But it wasn’t my choice, so I’m protesting.”

Her parents were concerned for her safety and tried to convince her to stay home. But she disobeyed them, pretending to go to work in her morning and searching for protest rallies around the city.

“I am angry but not afraid. I just need this feeling to spill out onto the street,” she said.