Iran’s religious leaders try to portray the spreading protests over the death of Jîna (Mahsa) Amini as a breakaway uprising which threatens national unity rather than clerical rule, Reuters reported on Monday.
Much of the crackdown by security forces focused on the northwest part of the country, where most of Iran’s estimated 10 million Kurds live. More security, including riot police and paramilitary forces as well as tanks, were transferred to the Kurdistan province from other areas, Reuters said, citing witness accounts.
An unnamed Iranian security official accused Kurdish opposition groups of using Amini’s death as “an excuse for their decades-long goal of separating Kurdistan from Iran”. Such rhetoric was behind Iran’s missile strikes against Iraqi Kurdish territory, which reportedly killed 13 people. Another Iranian official told Reuters that there were “concerns” that support for Kurds throughout Iran would result in a stronger push for independence.
However, “significant solidarity” among Iran’s various ethnic groups has undermined the official Iranian line, Ali Fathollah-Nejad, a political scientist at the American University of Beirut, told Reuters.
Iran’s constitution grants language rights to all ethnic minorities, but Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities report discrimination under Farsi-Shiite rule. “Scores if not hundreds” of Kurds have been jailed over unfair trials, Reuters cited Amnesty International as saying.
Political groups representing Kurds in Iran “want regime change, not independence”, Iranian Kurdish journalist Kaveh Ghoreishi told Reuters.
While official discourse attempts to paint a different picture, the treatment of minorities and the disregard of their legitimate grievances “have rendered the country increasingly vulnerable to the civil strife that has pulled countries in the region like Syria and Yemen into a deadly downward spiral”, International Crisis Group’s Ali Vaez told Reuters.