Thursday, February 22

Iran launches airstrike against Kurdish group in northern Iraq | Iran

Iran has launched a deadly cross-border airstrike into northern Iraq to punish Kurds for their role in supporting demonstrations over the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in Iranian police custody that are still rattling the Tehran regime.

The attack occurred as the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, addressed the nation to express his regret over the death of Mahsa Amini a fortnight ago, but also to accuse the protesters of being agents of foreign powers.

Activists speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity said: “Our confidence is growing. We are not backing down despite the arrests. It is very beautiful. There is a belief that something is going to change this time.”

Lawyers acting for Amini’s family have, in defiance of regime pressure, filed a formal complaint against those responsible for her arrest. They have demanded a detailed independent investigation into her death, including the manner of arrest and transfer to hospital, as well as photographs and videos of the arrest, and any brain scans.

Amini, now a symbol of resistance to the regime, died in police custody after she was picked up by the morality police in Tehran for not wearing a hijab properly.

As many as 10 people were killed and 32 injured in the Iranian drone strikes on military bases in northern Iraq that belong to the Kurdish Democratic party of Iran (KDPI).

“The forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked the bases and headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic party of Iran with missiles and drones,” a statement said. The US condemned the attacks as brazen while Iran said it was attacking terrorist bases.

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The KPDI urged its supporters inside Iran to go back into the streets, with its London spokesperson saying: “Support for these demonstrations is building. This started about one Kurdish woman and the wearing of the hijab, but it is now somewhat wider in over 100 cities. The chant in the streets is ‘Death to the regime. Death to the dictator.’”

Reports on the number of deaths amid the protests differ, but the Oslo-based human rights group Iran Human Rights said the figure was at least 76. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has put the protest toll at “around 60”, inclusive of several members of the Iranian security forces.

The regime will be desperate to ensure the protests do not extend to more working-class districts, and are likely to portray the protesters as anti-patriotic liberals at odds with the values ​​of the regime.

Iran’s police warned on Wednesday they would confront “with all their might”. Yet at the same time the country’s minister for women’s affairs, Ensieh Khazali, said she had been to visit arrested women in jail, and was seeking to have those not guilty of major offenses released.

The threats came only hours after the UN said its secretary general, António Guterres, called on Raisi not to use “disproportionate force” against protesters.

“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising fatalities, including women and children, related to the protests,” the UN chief’s spokeperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said.

Iran has imposed a strict internet shutdown to prevent the protesters using social media to inform the outside world of the scale of the repression. As many as 20 reporters have been arrested, and newspapers are increasingly toeing the government line that the protests are being manipulated by Saudi Arabian or western media. Some papers are staging debates on whether the compulsory hijab is required by sharia law.

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The regime has continued to claim the west response followed what it saw as the success of Raisi’s performance at the UN general assembly in New York.

But the regime is being battered by the persistence of the demonstrations and the willingness of prominent Iranians ranging from musicians, actors, sports stars and university lecturers to demand the voice of young Iranians is respected.

Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, an award-winning actor appeared without hijab to speak at the funeral ceremony of fellow actor Amin Tariokh. The Iranian football coach and former player Ali Karimi has also backed the demonstrations, as did the composer Hossein Alizadeh.

In Britain, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British Iranian dual-national who spent five years in an Iranian jail, also cut her hair for BBC Persian cameras in a sign of solidarity with the protests in Iran.

Companies also warned that the continued shutdown of the internet were damaging their business.

On Tuesday, authorities in Iran arrested the daughter of the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for “inciting rioters”, the Tasnim news agency reported. They have also been threatening celebrities and football stars that have supported the protestors.

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