Residents of Iran's Kurdish-majority city tell how protests surged

Residents of Iran's Kurdish-majority city tell how protests surged
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State forces conducted a massacre when they opened fire on a funeral march, which actually marked the first large mass rally in Mahabad, and this triggered further protests, journalist Gok says.

Kurdish journalist Abdurrahman Gok traveled to Iran's Kurdish-majority city of Mahabad, which was besieged by state forces in mid November in response to mass rallies, and talked with residents who gave a picture of how the protests of small groups in the city turned into mass demonstrations.

Gok was told that the first protest after the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa (Jina) Amini in police custody was staged by only a few dozen people on 19 September in Shapur Street, but after a protester, Simko Mewludi was killed by state forces on 26 October, thousands of people responded to the family's call by staging a huge march.

Simko was shot near Mela Xelil Square, receiving a fatal bullet wound on his chest, when he was targeted from the direction of a police check point near the square, a Kurdish youth told Gok.

"A funeral procession was held for Simko on 27 October and the people marched to the city's center and to the offices of the city governor," Gok says in his report for the Mezopotamya News Agency.

"Both the local guards serving under state forces and the Basij militia and Pasdars [troops of Iran's Revolutionary Guards] opened fire at the people. Six people were killed and dozens were injured."

Five of the fatalities were identified as Masoud Ahmadzade, Saho Xizri, Kubra Shexa Seqa, Ferista Ahamadi and Zanyar Ebubekiri, Gok notes, adding that this massacre triggered further protests.

While shop owners and workers have been joining in a general strike on Saturdays throughout Iran since the beginning of Mahsa Amini protests, the strike is held not only on Saturdays but also on Wednesdays in Rojhelat, or the Kurdish-majority areas of Iran, which is also referred to as East Kurdistan, Gok says.

"One afternoon I saw people start shuttering their shops all at once," he continues. "I later asked why they did it although it wasn't Wednesday or Saturday, and a shop keeper explained: 'The people take initiative to shutter their shops in protest when they've received information that somebody died at home or at the hospital after having been injured during a protest. That day, which you saw people protesting, was the day they received information that Faiq Mamqaderi died after a month of treatment in the hospital.'

"When I ask when and in which protest Faiq Mamqaderi was injured, I'm told: 'Faiq wasn't actually injured in a protest. He drove with a friend to his family's house when he heard that the house was stormed by state forces around midnight. The police opened fire at his car in front of the house and the two were injured. Faiq's friend recovered, but Faiq died in a hospital in Urmia.'"

Gok adds that he has witnessed a two-day power cut in the city starting on 10 November when a funeral procession for Faiq Mamqaderi was held. He cites people saying that the city is hit by frequent internet and power cuts, and that the government is behind it.

About Abdurrahman Gok

Journalist Gok was sentenced by a Turkish court in early July to 18 months in prison for "terrorist propaganda", over photos he took in Northern Syria, and photos of a fatal police shooting in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir during 2017 Newroz celebrations.

Gök had captured on camera the moment Kemal Kurkut, a 23-year-old arts student, was killed by the police at a check point as he entered the celebration grounds for Newroz celebrations. Official sources first tried to present the killing as the "neutralization of a suicide bomber," but Gok’s photos clearly showed the young man being shot in his back while holding nothing more than a water bottle. Kurkut was also not wearing a shirt at the time, and so could not be hiding any explosives under a garment.

Gok was also accused of terrorist propaganda over photos he took in the Syrian Kurdish-majority town of Kobani, which survived a brutal attack and siege of the Islamic State (ISIS) between 16 September 2014 and 26 January 2015.