UN Rights Chief Warns Iran's Crackdown On Protests At 'Critical' Point As Deaths Rise

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

UN human rights chief Volker Turk has warned that the situation surrounding the Iranian government's crackdown on unrest sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody has reached a "critical" point, with more than 300 people killed by security forces in recent weeks.

Speaking at a news briefing in Geneva on November 22, a spokesperson for Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the "rising number of deaths from from protests in Iran, including those of two children at the weekend, and the hardening of the response by security forces, underline the critical situation in the country."

The protests, which have snowballed into one of the biggest threats to the clerical establishment that has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, started after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16, three days after being detained in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly breaching Iran's strict rules on head scarves.

The unrest was initially centered in Amini's hometown of Saghez in Iran's Kurdistan region before quickly spreading to dozens of cities and towns across Iran. Tehran has claimed, without providing evidence, that Kurdish groups in northern Iraq have been supporting the demonstrations.

At least 378 people, including 47 children, have been killed by government forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, reported that the security forces killed at least five Kurdish citizens in Javanrud with live ammunition on November 21.

Recent reports said that Iranian authorities have intensified their deadly crackdown in the Kurdistan region, with activists saying the violence is an attempt by the authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the dissent.

Some rights activists have warned that a lack of blood and medicine in the Kurdish cities of Javanrud and Mahabad could turn the situation into a humanitarian crisis in the coming days.

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network published images of the landing of several Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) helicopters in a military area of Javanrud on November 21 and reported that hundreds of IRGC forces were deployed in areas of the city.

There have also been reports of plainclothes forces raiding the homes of citizens in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj and arresting protesters along with beating and destroying their property.

Hengaw also said that these attacks had made it very difficult to provide the basic necessities, including water and electricity, to people in the area.

The IRGC has accused Kurdish groups of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest" amid protests that erupted over Amini's death.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda. With additional reporting by Reuters