Amnesty International has accused Iranian security forces of unlawfully killing at least 66 people, including children, and injuring hundreds of others outside a Sunni mosque in south-east Iran.
The human rights organisation says security forces fired live ammunition, metal pellets and teargas at protesters, bystanders and worshippers during a violent crackdown after Friday prayers on September 30 in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan province.
Since then, another 16 people were killed in separate incidents in Zahedan amid an ongoing clampdown on protests, Amnesty said.
On the other hand, the Iranian authorities said that 19 people, including bystanders and several members of the security forces, were killed during the protests in Zahedan.
They have blamed the deaths on “terrorists,” “rioters” and “separatists” whom they claim were acting for foreign governments.
Videos broadcast on state media after September 30 have shown detainees, whom authorities allege were involved in armed attacks against security forces in Zahedan, with sacks over their heads making self-incriminating statements.
The authorities have also claimed that protesters committed acts of looting and arson on public property.
Amnesty has based its accusations on evidence gathered from activists, victims’ families, eyewitness testimonies, and images and videos of the protests.
If confirmed, this would mark the deadliest day since protests started spreading across Iran after Mahsa Amini died in custody following her arrest by Iran’s morality police.
“The Iranian authorities have repeatedly shown utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and will stop at nothing to preserve power. The callous violence being unleashed by Iran’s security forces is not occurring in a vacuum. It is the result of systematic impunity and a lacklustre response by the international community,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“It is particularly abhorrent that nearly three years after the November 2019 protests, in which hundreds of people were unlawfully killed, the Iranian authorities have shamelessly continued their ruthless assault on human life. The only way to break the impunity that empowers such actions is for UN member states to urgently establish an independent investigative and accountability mechanism for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Iran.”
Protests in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan province, mainly populated by the Sunni Baluchi ethnic minority, were scheduled to take place after Friday prayers on September 30 as a show of solidarity with nationwide protests and to demand accountability for the reported rape of a 15-year-old girl by a police commander in the province.
According to Amnesty, as a group of people finished praying in the Great Mosalla of Zahedan, a large prayer site near the city’s main mosque, and gathered outside the police station across the road to protest and chant, security forces fired live ammunition, metal pellets and tear gas at them from the police station rooftop.
Simultaneously, plain-clothed security forces fired at protesters and bystanders from the rooftops of several nearby houses, as corroborated by photographs shared by activists.
Security forces also fired live ammunition, metal pellets and teargas directly into the vicinity of the Mosalla, where hundreds of people, including children and older people, were still performing Friday prayers.
Evidence gathered by Amnesty International shows that the majority of victims were shot in the head, heart, neck and torso.
On October 1, Mawlana Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi, the Sunni leader of Friday prayers in Zahedan, recounted the crackdown in a video testimony. He stated that more than 40 people were killed after security forces standing on rooftops fired live ammunition towards a group of young protesters outside the police station as well as directly into the Mosalla towards men and women performing prayers.
Meanwhile, Iranian news agencies announced that an attack by armed separatists on a police station in a southeastern city killed 19 people, including four members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The assailants hid among worshippers near a mosque in the city of Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province, and then stormed the nearby police station, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.
Provincial Governor Hossein Modaresi was quoted as saying 19 people were killed. The news outlet said 32 IRGC members, including volunteer Basiji forces, were also wounded in clashes.