Tensions in Iran spill across the border into Iraq

As security forces in Iran move to quell protests that have rocked cities across the country for more than a week, the repercussions are being felt in neighboring Iraq, where Tehran has been targeting opposition groups. kurdish

Nine people were killed and at least 32 others, including children, injured in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Wednesday after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bombed the region for the fifth consecutive day, Iraqi news agency reportedciting the regional health ministry.

The drone and missile strikes targeted offices and paramilitary bases of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, including the cities of Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Pirde, Kurdish officials and human rights groups said. They were the latest in a series of attacks in the region since Saturday, after Tehran accused Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq of fomenting some of the demonstrations that have gripped Iran for 12 days.

Those protests began after the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September. Ms. Amini had been detained on allegations that she had violated Iran’s headscarf law, which requires adult women to cover her hair.

The demonstrations quickly spread to dozens of cities in Iran and have become the most widespread challenge to the country’s authoritarian rule since 2009, prompting a brutal crackdown by security forces.

Iranian authorities said on Monday that 41 protesters had been killed and more than 1,200 arrested. Human rights groups said the number of victims was much higher, but was difficult to pin down as the government has restricted cellphone and internet service. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for the release of more than 23 journalists it said had been detained since the start of the protests.

The dramatic scenes of resistance have thrown Iran into turmoil that has cut across ethnic and social divides and drawn people from all walks of life. Videos circulating on social media have shown more women across Iran burning their headscarves and cutting their hair in public displays of defiance. Students and professors from more than 20 universities staged a massive strike on Wednesday.

The unrest has been especially intense in the Kurdish areas of northwestern Iran, near the border with Iraq.

The Kurdistan region of Iraq has long been home to Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, including paramilitary forces with bases carved out of the mountains between Iraq and Iran. Tehran frequently carries out cross-border attacks against those forces, strikes that have intensified since the latest protests began.

Iran’s Kurdish Democratic Party, one of the opposition groups targeted on Wednesday, accused the Revolutionary Guards of using the strikes to divert attention from the protests.

“We call on the international community not to remain silent,” the group said in a twitter post.

The Government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in Iraq denounced the strikes and civilian casualties, calling the attacks “repetitive violations of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region.”

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a sentence that rockets, artillery and 20 drones were used in Wednesday’s attacks, adding that the actions “cast a shadow over the region and will only contribute to increasing tension.”

The United Nations also condemned the attacks and criticized the treatment of Iraq as the “backyard of the region where neighbors routinely, and with impunity, violate their sovereignty.”

Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government health minister Sama Barzanji said rescue teams had been deployed and hospitals in Erbil were “on alert” to receive the injured.

Iran has wielded considerable influence over Iraq for most of the past two decades, through religious and economic ties and militia backing. But the anti-government protests sweeping Iran could distract Tehran from its oversight of such proxies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Iran, which is majority Shiite, has long relied on the support of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority to maintain a foothold there.

But last month’s clashes in Baghdad between two of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite groups — Iranian-backed militias and fighters loyal to Iraqi nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — have Tehran worried.