Residents in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan gathered by the thousands on September 30 to stage protests marking the first anniversary of what has come to be known across the Islamic Republic as “Bloody Friday.”
In the days leading up to that anniversary, internet access was throttled or cut off and a regional intelligence headquarters sent messages to residents’ mobile phones warning them again to take part in demonstrations.
These moves were eerily reminiscent of the Iranian regime’s actions less than two weeks earlier when activists in a number of other provinces marked the anniversary of the nationwide uprising that created the backdrop for Bloody Friday.
Large-scale protests began on September 17, 2022, in Saqqez, the hometown of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died the previous day following a violent encounter with the morality police.
A backlash against Amini’s killing spread throughout the country. The resulting uprising took on broad political messaging, which amounted to a public appeal for regime change and the establishment of a pluralistic, democratic republic. Meanwhile, the regime authorities responded to the chants of “death to the dictator” with brutal repression, killing 750 people in less than three months, according to intelligence gathered by the leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. https://twitter.com/i/status/1707751918221607110
The MEK, credited the Iranian people with defying these killings, as well as more than 30,000 arrests, for much longer than the Iranian regime claimed before the uprising was brutally subdued.
In fact, a number of activists have argued that the uprising never truly came to an end. This view is arguably supported by the resurgence of unrest in various localities on the anniversaries of Amini’s killing and of the killing of approximately 100 people in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, on Bloody Friday.
The eve of that latter anniversary saw the outbreak of major demonstrations in Zahedan itself, as well as in Rask, Khash, Sooran, Taftan, and other cities. Eyewitnesses reported that participants in several of those demonstrations confronted tear gas canisters and gunfire that threatened to make the commemoration similar to the event being observed. Although no fatalities were immediately reported, according to the National Council of Resistance at least 19 people, including children, were wounded. This figure will likely rise as the MEK and other activist groups gather information about the regime’s response to the unrest.
Initial injury reports from protests in the Islamic Republic are usually downplayed due in part to protesters’ wariness of seeking medical attention. Regime authorities are known to stake out hospitals with the intention of arresting anyone who arrives with injuries that are consistent with protest crackdowns.
During last year’s uprising, there were numerous reports of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps using ambulances to transport protesters straight to jail.
Sistan and Baluchistan is home to a majority of Iran’s ethnic Baluch population. Anniversary protests in that province featured slogans like “the Baluch prefer death to humiliation.”
These slogans were paired with more broadly accessible chants like “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which defined the 2022 uprising, as well as a number of nationwide protests that preceded it.
Protesters in Zahedan and surrounding localities have frequently likened the Basij, the morality police, and the Revolutionary Guard to ISIS and condemned them for serving “a regime that commits rape and murder.”
The demonstrations reportedly received support from the MEK and its network of Resistance Units, which are actively promoting the notion of ongoing revolt against the clerical regime.