Iran Probes Border Shooting Deaths That Sparked Protests

By Reuters
February 26, 2021Middle East
Iran Probes Border Shooting Deaths That Sparked Protests
An Iranian rocket is shown being fired during a military exercise in the Gulf, near the strategic strait of Hormuz in southern Iran, on Sept. 10, 2020. (Iranian Army office/AFP via Getty Images)

DUBAI—Iran is investigating the fatal shootings of at least two Iranians this week at the border with Pakistan, and Islamabad has handed over the body of one of the victims, the Iranian foreign ministry said on Friday.

Monday’s shooting of at least two people carrying fuel across the border led to protests that spread across the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

Iran said the shooting occurred in Pakistan, but Pakistani border officials said protests broke out after Iranian forces fired at people involved in the illegal Iranian fuel trade.

A policeman was reported to have been killed in the unrest in Iran’s southeast, but a provincial security official said calm had returned with the help of religious leaders. Media quoted prominent Baluchi Sunni cleric Molavi Abdulhamid as urging calm and calling for an independent investigation.

“The body of at least one person was delivered by Pakistan’s border guards. We are reviewing the incident,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told Iranian media.

Protesters stormed a governor’s office in southeastern Iran on Tuesday and set fire to a police car, according to videos posted on social media. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage.

Sistan-Baluchestan’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while most Iranians are Shi’ite. Iran has some of the lowest fuel prices in the world and has been fighting smuggling to neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet accused Iran of “persistent impunity for human rights violations” in regions including Sistan-Baluchestan.

“In Iran, an apparently coordinated campaign has been targeting minority groups since December, including in Sistan and Baluchestan, Khuzestan, and in the Kurdish provinces,” Bachelet told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva

“Mass arrests and enforced disappearances have been reported, as well as increasing numbers of executions, following deeply flawed processes,” Bachelet added.

There was no immediate official Iranian reaction to Bachelet’s allegations but Iran has repeatedly rejected similar criticism as being politically motivated and based on a lack of understanding of Tehran’s Islamic laws.

Amnesty International and three other human rights groups issued a statement protesting against Iran’s curbs on the Internet in areas hit by the unrest, which “authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible … extrajudicial killings.”