Uprisings rock western Iran
The National Council of Resistance of Iran reports that on Aug. 3 thousands took to the streets of Saqez, capital of Iran's Kurdistan province, against the clerical regime, and in solidarity with uprisings in other cities in the region, including Sanandaj, Mahabad, Sardasht, Piranshahr, Marivan, Oshnavieh, Baneh and Divan Darreh.
The regime has dispatched hundreds of State Security Forces (SSF) and special anti-riot units to the scene. Backed by helicopter gunships, security forces took position in Hehlou Square, where they fired tear gas into the crowd and began shooting in the air. Young people broke in groups of 100 and engaged in hit-and-run skirmishes with the SSF, building street barricades and burning tires. Chanting "long live freedom," "death to Khamenei" and "down with the mullahs' rule," the demonstrators hurled rocks and attacked SSF bases, government offices and the Revolutionary Guards HQ, inflicting heavy damage. Several protesters were wounded and at least 30 arrested during the clashes. Security forces and intelligence agents raided homes in Sanandaj and arrested at least 400.
National Council of Resistance president-elect Maryam Rajavi hailed the uprising in Saqez and urged residents in other areas and towns to rush to their aid. "The day is not far when the Iranian nation's uprising will uproot the religious theocracy under the banner of Islam and herald democracy and popular sovereignty in Iran," she said.
Iran Focus cites Iranian press reports that authorities have acknowledged 11 dead in the Saqez violence. "Following the recent unrest in certain Kurdish towns, riots broke out yesterday in the town of Saqqez and a group that was previously unheard of called the Militant Students Organisation caused trouble by damaging a number of shops, banks, and government property," the semi-official Jomhouri Islami newspaper wrote.
A June 17, 2003 BBC News profile of Maryam Rajavi describes her as leader of the Iraq-based Mujahideen-e Khalq Organisation (MKO), which some have speculated was behind the recent bombings in Ahvaz, capital of restive and oil-rich Khuzestan province bordering Iraq.
Reuters reported July 27 on fresh protests in Khuzestan, home to most of Iran's Arab minority. Officials said police restored order after 12 arrests, but an Arab rebel leader said four protesters were killed and many injured in clashes with authorities.
Mahmoud Ahmad Al-Ahwazi of the Ahvaz Arab People's Democratic-Popular Front, fighting for the independence of Khuzestan, said protests were picking up in the run-up to the 100th-day anniversary of the April unrest in the province. Bomb attacks against government buildings in Khuzestan killed seven people in June.
Iranian authorities also say order has been restored in the northwestern Kurdish town of Mahabad, where there was rioting in recent weeks. Iranian authorities say the unrest was not ethnically motivated, but Kurdish leaders disagree.