IRAN: Strikes in Kurdistan, violent demonstrations at Scandinavian embassies over executions

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Anger over the executions of Iranian Kurds, including a woman, in Tehran’s Evin prison Sunday continues to be felt in the Islamic Republic and is fueling violent demonstrations outside the country.

Iranian Kurds were reported to be staging large general strikes in Kurdish cities on Thursday while protests outside the Iranian embassies in the Danish and Swedish capitals spiraled out of control.


According to the Iranian opposition news website Jaras, the bazaars in the cities of Mahabad and Oshnaviyeh in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province and in the Kurdistan province cities Sanandaj and Kamyaran were all closed Thursday in protest against the executions.

A video clip supposedly filmed in the Sanandaj bazaar Thursday shows the traditional market completely empty, its shops closed and locked down.

Reports have also surfaced on opposition websites, including the Green Voice of Freedom, about students refusing to go to school in several Iranian cities in fury over the hanging of teacher Farzad Kamangar. He was one of four or five Iranian Kurds who were hanged Sunday on terrorism charges -- an act which has enraged human rights activists and Kurdish groups.

Tensions were said to be growing in Iran’s ethnic Kurdish cities, with security troops stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatening shop owners in the bazaar and demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said.

An unconfirmed report from the privately owned Kurdish newspaper Awene claimed that Iraqi Kurds and Iranian soldiers had exchanged fire in a border area in the Sulaimaniyah province in Iraqi Kurdistan, but it was not immediately clear if the alleged incident was related to the backlash over the Kurdish executions.

Anger over the executions was also visible outside the Islamic Republic on Thursday, especially in Denmark and Sweden, both with large Kurdish populations, where demonstrations outside the Iranian embassies in Copenhagen and Stockholm against the hangings turned violent.

In the Danish capital, protesters were said to have thrown stones at the embassy and managed to break several windows. The police narrowly prevented the crowds from storming the embassy, reported the Danish daily Politiken. Four people were arrested at the demonstration which had been organized by the Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners in Iran, the report added.

A video said to be from the protest suggests complete tumult. It purportedly shows demonstrators overwhelming the police and breaking open the iron gate to the Iranian Embassy’s villa complex in Copenhagen. Some of them proceed to enter the embassy premises, kicking cars parked in the lot and throwing stones at the windows to the loud cheers of demonstrators at the other side of the gate before being hustled out by Danish police.

The incident prompted a phone call from the Danish foreign minister Lene Espersen to her Iranian counterpart Manuchehr Mottaki in which she apologized for the incident, according to Iranian state radio.

‘The Danish foreign minister has apologized to the Iranian foreign minister over an attack on the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Copenhagen.... Some anti-revolutionary elements, who had gathered in front of the embassy, smashed windows of the building due to the negligence of the Danish police,’ Iranian television reported. Tumult also erupted in neighboring Sweden when around 250 protesters reportedly took to the Iranian Embassy in Stockholm on Thursday to protest the Kurdish hangings.

The large numbers of protesters took the police by surprise and the demonstration spiraled out of control when around 10 people in the crowd starting throwing Molotov cocktails and glass bottles at the Embassy building, according to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

As in Denmark, some of the demonstrators tried to storm the embassy and five people ended up being arrested in the chaos. They had more or less managed to penetrate the embassy premises, said an article published in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Despite Thursday’s scuffles, the Swedish police expect more protests outside the Iranian Embassy over the recent executions.

‘Today there is a demonstration again outside Iran’s embassy,’ Christina Johansson, spokesperson for the Stockholm police, was quoted as saying by Svenska Dagbladet on Friday.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Video credit: YouTube.