The people on the bus were not afraid. They had just crossed the Zagros Mountains from Iran into Iraqi Kurdistan. On the khaki-and-mustard slopes located on the characteristic zigzag ridge that marks the border between the two countries, Iranian border guards kept watch from observation posts.
The Irish Times boarded a mud-splattered bus just after clearing Kurdish customs in Iraq. Our driver, Mohammed, 34, waved at us and spoke enthusiastically about the protests that have rocked Iran since the death of Mahsa “Gina” Amini in custody in September. Not long ago, tens of thousands of people took to the streets for 40 days of mourning.
According to news reports, security forces, who reportedly attacked protesters with live ammunition, metal pellets and bird shots, opened fire in several cities, including Tehran, Shiraz and Saqez. It was the bloodiest day ever. This time, he said, some locals fought back with his AK47s and shotguns. “There will be more fighting because so many people have been killed,” he said. “People don’t forget dead relatives.”
Like other interviewees for this article, he asked to withhold his real name for fear of repercussions for his family in Iran.
Two women were sitting in the front row. Dressed in black, she is the daughter of a 65-year-old woman and a smartly dressed civil servant. They watched silently, smiling. “God only knows how long it will take to end this regime. I just hope it’s safe. It won’t be peaceful,” the mother finally said, and her daughter gave her a warning look. I don’t remember anything, I don’t know anything,” said the mother with a knowing smile.
Further down the road the Irish Times flagged another bus. A long-haired doll head hanging from the rearview mirror symbolizes Amini’s arrest by the moral police for wearing a headscarf in a way that reveals her hair.”Martha Amini!” said Karok, her 47-year-old driver from nearby Piranxar. “One hair of a woman is worth more than the entire regime!”
About 300 protesters were killed by security forces in the ongoing crackdown, according to human rights groups. “To kill is to shoot,” said Ali, 38, in the front seat. But he added that there were people in the army who seemed to be rebelling against the order and ready to join the people. “
“They fear that it will not last and that the government will survive,” Karov said. “If they think the government can collapse, they will join.”
Human rights groups have accused the regime of covering up the deadly crackdown, forcing the families of the dead to release statements deflecting accusations from the government. Karok said it was well known in Piranshaar that families gathering relatives in the morgue were forced to sign papers proving that they were murdered for an entirely different cause. . Otherwise, it is not permissible to take a loved one away.
The Iranian people were upset and tired, he said. After hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests, they felt abandoned by the international community. “Where are the human rights that the international community is always talking about?” he said. “They have their eyes and ears closed. They don’t care. But they have to put pressure on the Iranian government.”
Abdulla, also from Piranshahr, in his 60s, joined the conversation. History was repeating itself, he said. The Iranian revolution, which culminated in the overthrow of Shahrezha Pahlavi in 1979, saw large-scale confrontations between protesters and security forces, but, as he noted, the subsequent Ayatollah Khomeini’s The suppression of rebellion and the purge of opponents was even more deadly. “We need people to move and overthrow this government,” he said.
Protests continue in defiance of official ultimatums. The Theocracy stepped up its efforts to quell the protests by announcing a public trial of some 1,000 protesters to be held in so-called revolutionary courts.
Disembarking the bus at the next village, The Irish Times met a young man standing outside a low concrete hut watching a protest video on his mobile phone. After several months working in Iraqi Kurdistan, he was scheduled to return to Piranshahr the next day.
Unlike his compatriots in the bus, he watched events unfold from outside. He recently heard that his 17-year-old neighbor of his childhood friend had been killed. When asked how he felt about the administration, he gave a look of horror.
“It’s a mess, it’s chaos,” he said finally. “Iranian intelligence is very scary.
“I hope that’s the end of them.”