Iran: Ongoing protests over the killing of Baluch fuel traders

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, February 28, 2021—Protests that began in Sistan and Baluchestan on Monday continued for the sixth consecutive day on Saturday. The protests began after the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) opened fire and killed fuel porters in Saravan county, near the Iran-Pakistan border. IRGC forces in the Saravan border area opened fire on a group of Baluch fuel porters, killing and injuring several people. Images and videos posted on social media showed dense presence of IRGC forces along with heavy artillery and tanks.

Protests have spread across the Sistan and Baluchestan province since the incident. The regime has cut off internet access to prevent the news of the protests from spreading. According to reports obtained from the locals, security forces have gunned down dozens of protesters and have arrested many others.

On Saturday, the youth in Dashtyari county blocked the road to Bahukalat in protest to the killing of fuel traders at the Saravan border crossing.

In Rigan county, the citizens declared their solidarity with the people of Saravan and blocked the roads to this county to prevent the IRGC from using them as transit ways to dispatch forces to quell protests. In Chabahar, the youth blocked entrance roads in protest to the killing of fuel traders. In Banglan, Jask county, the youth set tires ablaze and blocked roads. In Zarap, the people blocked the road to the county’s airport despite strict security measures.

In the city of Zabol, security forces are on high alert. Security forces have set up several check points in the city. According to reports from Doust Mohammad, there’s a heavy presence of security forces across the county.

Under severe pressure by protests across Sistan and Baluchestan and fearing the expansion of protests to other parts of Iran, the regime was forced to restore the work permit of some fuel traders. IRGC units have evacuated some of their border outposts in fear of protests.

A citizen reported on Saturday: “We’re still facing an internet blackout. We tried to take our wounded to locations where security forces could not harm them. Since yesterday evening, we brought a few nurses and doctors from 400 kilometers away to tend to the wounded. I haven’t slept in two days. We just had short access to internet 30 minutes ago in Zahedan.”

According to citizen reports from Zahedan, the city is in a state of martial law. Security forces are filling the streets and the regime has brought reinforcements from neighboring cities and towns. Some of the units have been brought in from the neighboring Kerman province.

Military helicopters continue to fly over many cities, including Zahedan and Ghaleh Bid.

On Friday, Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over the regime-imposed internet blackout across Sistan and Baluchestan “to deprive the population of independent information on the uprising that took place after several civilians were killed by the border police of Baluchistan and to better repress without witnesses.”

For many of the impoverished people of Sistan and Baluchestan, transferring small amounts of fuel across the border and selling it to customers has become the only means of earning their keep and supporting their families. The reason they live this way is more than four decades of regime corruption and discrimination against the Baluch minority. The regime’s security forces attack and kill them regularly under the pretext of fighting smuggling. Meanwhile, the regime’s own security forces control a huge fuel-smuggling network that dwarfs the activities of the fuel porters of Sistan and Baluchestan.

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