Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Martial law imposed in volatile Iran cities

Iran Focus: a pro-MEK website
Iranian authorities have imposed a de facto martial law in several volatile cities in the north-western province of Kurdistan as restive youths used the occasion of Iran’s traditional “fire festival” to hold anti-government protests, residents told Iran Focus by telephone on Tuesday.

Agents of the paramilitary police, the Revolutionary Guards, and plainclothes agents of the secret police, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, moved in to take control of the cities to limit unrest as people took to the streets. READ MORE

There is a heavy police presence at every major junction, square, and highway in and around the cities of Sanandaj, Piranshahr, and Mahabad and security forces are attempting to arrest any individual seeking to take part in protests.

During the festival, known as ‘chaharshanbeh souri’ – literally, Feast of Wednesday – people jump over bonfires to “drive away evil”. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, however, Iran’s theocratic leaders have made strenuous efforts to stamp out the festivities, but to no avail. In recent years, there have been extensive clashes between festive crowds and the security forces deployed to prevent street celebrations. This year the event falls on March 14.

In Piranshahr, banks, police cars, and government buildings were set on fire as violent clashes erupted on Saturday between security forces and angry residents.

Protests began after agents of the State Security Forces (SSF) shot and killed a young man in his car at a stop-and-search point.

At least five police vehicles were set on fire during the clashes between young protesters and security agents.

Reports from the Kurdish city of Mahabad in north-western Iran said that widespread clashes had broken out on Friday between residents and security forces after a detained man was shot at point blank by security agents.