Sardasht protest in support of Mahabad May 9. Rudaw photo
SARDASHT, Iran – Violence and unrest in the Kurdish city of Sardasht escalated Saturday when Iranian police attacked hundreds of protesters gathering to pledge support for fellow Kurds rallying against alleged injustice in Mahabad, Iran.
According to local sources who spoke to Rudaw on condition of anonymity, the protesters gathered in Sarchawa Square and marched toward Salahaddin Ayubi Square.
Eyewitnesses said that when security forces tried to leave the protest, violence broke out between police and protestors. Police shootings were also reported, and at least 30 people—including three women—have been arrested, local sources inside the city told Rudaw.
“Hundreds of people participated in the Sardasht protest, shouting ‘Mahabad is not alone, Sardasht is a supporter,’” a protester told Rudaw.
The neighboring Iranian Kurdish region of Mahabad has been experiencing civil unrest over the death of 25-year-old Farinaz Khosrawani, who was killed by falling from the 4th floor of the Tara Hotel. Anti-government media and Kurdish protesters claim Khosrawani jumped to her death to avoid the sexual advances of an Iranian army officer who was allegedly working in cooperation with the hotel's owner. These accusations have not been confirmed by Rudaw.
The Center for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran announced in a statement Sunday the Kurdish cities of Bukan, Mariwan, Saqez and Sena (Sanandaj) are the sites of large security forces deployments to prevent possible demonstrations. According to the statement, the Internet is currently cut off in Mahabad.
Arrests were made after the Thursday riot, but the numbers are still unknown. It was reported Thursday a suspect had been arrested in connection with Khosrawani's death.
Kurds, the world’s largest stateless people with an estimated population of 40 million, have rallied across the Middle East in support of the Mahabad protests. In addition to Iran, rallies have been staged in Rojava in Syria, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and Kurdish areas of Turkey.