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Iran: Protests hit restive southeast, internet disrupted

February 24, 2023

Social media clips show a heavy police presence in Zahedan, a city that has become a major site of protests sweeping the country.

Men on the streets in Zahedan, with the two in the foreground holding up the victory sign, November 11, 2022
Protests regularly take to the streets after Friday prayers in ZahedanImage: UGC/AFP

Iranian demonstrators took the streets of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province in the country's southeast, amid heightened security presence on Friday.

Massive protests have gripped Iran after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody in September 2022.

And Zahedan has become a major center for protests ever since Iranian authorities cracked down on protesters on September 30, 2022, a day which has since been known as "Bloody Friday."

Iranian security forces were accused of firing indiscriminately at protesters and bystanders that day, with Amnesty International saying that at least 66 people were killed by authorities.

Baluchs who live in the southeastern province, which is one of the most poorest regions of the country, have taken to the streets every Friday after prayers ever since.

Internet disruption in the region

As with previous bouts of unrest, authorities appeared to have disrupted internet services on Friday. 

"Real-time network data show a significant disruption to internet connectivity in Zahedan, Iran. The incident comes amid a growing security presence during Friday protests," NetBlocks internet monitor said.

Like Kurds, Baluchs are predominantly Sunni communities who have long complained about neglect by the Iranian Shiite government.

Social media footage

Anger amid the protests appeared to have been fueled by reports that a medical doctor had been killed while in police custody.

"We swear on our comrades' blood to stand strong until the end," demonstrators in Zahedan were seen chanting in a video posted by Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).

The Baluch Activists Campaign (BAC) also posted videos to their Telegram page, showing protesters marching through the streets of Zahedan.

Another widely-circulated video, as seen in the tweet, purported to show security forces beating and arresting a Baluch man trying to enter Makki Mosque in the provincial capital.

rm/jsi (Reuters, AFP)