Iran attacks Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq

Iranian forces launched drone and artillery strikes in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Monday, targeting what Tehran said were bases of militant Iranian Kurdish separatist groups there, according to a semi-official news agency.

The attacks by the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were the second in three days against Iranian militants based in Iraq, according to the Revolutionary Guard-affiliated Tasnim news agency.

The new attacks came as Iran was reeling from 10 days of protests over the killing of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurdish woman, in police custody. She had been accused of violating the country’s strict modest dress code for women. The largest anti-government movement since the country’s 2009 Green Revolution, the protest has plunged Iran into turmoil that has cut across ethnic and social divides.

The unrest has been especially intense in northwestern Iran, where many members of the country’s Kurdish minority live.

Several Iranian opposition paramilitary groups maintain bases near the border with neighboring Iraq, and the Tasmin news agency accused them of causing chaos in cities along Iran’s northwestern border with Iraq. On Sunday, Iranian security forces appeared to have retaken the small, predominantly Kurdish town of Oshnavieh in that area after it was seized by protesters over the weekend.

The Revolutionary Guard shelled villages in the northern Iraqi region of Sedekan for nearly eight hours on Monday, according to Sedekan district mayor Ihsan Chalabi.

“Fortunately, no one was injured, but farmers lost buildings and sheep,” he said, adding that farming families were evacuated when the shelling began around 8 a.m.

The catalyst for the protests that swept through Iran was the death of Ms. Amini on September 16, three days after she was arrested in the capital, Tehran, when she was arrested by the country’s notorious morality police. She had been a member of Iran’s Kurdish minority, which has long suffered discrimination, and the community’s anger at her in recent days reflects its long-standing grievances against her.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossain Amir Abdollahian said in an interview with The New York Times on Saturday that the government was investigating what happened in the “very sad and tragic” case of Ms. Amini.

“Protests are acceptable, but they must be peaceful,” he said. “But at the same time,” he added, Iran “responds to unrest, responds to insecurities decisively and confronts them.”

He also said that “some foreign media” was provoking the Iranian people and that social media “was mobilized to turn this into something against security and instigate unrest inside Iran.”

Social media has documented protests in eight more cities in Iran since Sunday night.

Ms Amini’s death has sparked protests from Iranians angry not only at the treatment of women under the country’s conservative clerical rulers, but also at a host of other problems, including an economy crippled by years of sanctions and the pandemic.

Security forces have been violently cracking down on protesters by opening fire, beating people and firing tear gas, according to witnesses and videos shared on social media. a group of rights said at least 54 people had died since the protests began.

But internet blackouts have made it difficult to determine the extent of the government’s crackdown and have made it difficult for protesters to coordinate their actions.

The extraordinary scenes of dissent in Iran have spread across the world, as demonstrations have been organized in cities such as Athens, Berlin, Istanbul, New York and Paris.

Iran’s judicial chief said on Monday that security forces had not slept for several nights. He added that the authorities would severely punish those involved in the protests to deter others.

Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to President Biden, said on sunday that the United States had taken “tangible steps” to punish Iran’s morality police.

“The fact that we are in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in no way affects our willingness and our vehemence to speak out about what is happening on the streets of Iran,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” .”

The protesters appeared to be receiving increasing support from within the country.

Iran’s teachers’ unions have called nationwide strikes on Monday and Wednesday to oppose violence against protesters and widespread arrests.

Public figures in Iran, including athletes, writers and musicians, have issued statements of solidarity.

A captain of the national fencing team, Mojtaba Abedini, resigned in support of the protesters. Even an author close to the government, Mostafa Mastoor, criticized the violence used to suppress the uprising.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed report.