Following a large protest rally in Iran’s southeastern city Zahedan on Friday, security and intelligence agents launched a new wave of arrests aimed at young people.
Thousands of Baluch citizens took to the streets in Zahedan Friday for the 16th consecutive week and chanted “Down with the Dictator” and “Khamenei is a murderer; his rule is illegitimate”.
The Sunni Baluch population have held protests in Zahedan every Friday after prayers since September 30 when government forces cracked down on demonstrators, killing more than 80 people.
Reports say a new round of detaining Baluch teenagers and youths is underway since Friday, and according to Hal Vash website, which monitors events in Sistan-Baluchestan province and those affecting Iran's Sunni minority, police forces arrested several young Baluch men in different neighborhoods of the city.
While Iran’s Judiciary claimed earlier this week that thousands of protesters have been freed, it arrests more people, and those released face legal charges that can send them back to prison.
"The families of the detained citizens have held gatherings in front of the police station demanding the release of their children," added Hal Vash.
Based on the report, security forces have arrested several Afghan and Uzbek nationals living in Zahedan, threatening residents not to do business with these Sunni people.
A group of people arrested in Zahedan earlier in January
On the other hand, regime forces and plainclothes agents arrested Baluch people who did not have identity documents or were not carrying it.
The pressure on Baluch citizens has began since Wednesday with setting up checkpoints at several roads leading to Zahedan.
Mowlavi Abdolhamid, the outspoken Sunni leader of Zahedan delivered yet another fiery sermon Friday protesting the doubling of checkpoints. “Seven stop and search checkpoints have turned into fifteen,” he said.
Abdolhamid has become an effective critic of the Islamic Republic since September, speaking freely even against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Although the regime could arrest him anytime, that would lead to further trouble with Sunnis, and especially the Baluch population who regard them as a community leader and an advocate of their grievances.
The new measures included at least fifteen concrete block stop and search checkpoints on roads leading to Zahedan to control the flow of cars into the city, with security forces demanding identification and often questioning passengers. Internet connection has also been heavily restricted in the province since protests began four months ago.
“A government that does not listen to the voice of the people does not deserve to rule,” said Mowlavi Abdolhamid in his Friday sermon in Zahedan, capital of the restive Sistan-Baluchestan Province.
In recent weeks, the Islamic Republic has threatened and arrested dozens of citizens in Sistan and Baluchestan and beefed-up security in Zahedan with the aim of ending the routine protests on Fridays.
The detainees were mostly teenagers and young people, and according to Baluch activists, many of them are under pressure to "give forced confessions".
Since the beginning of protests in Zahedan and other cities of the province, many citizens have been detained with the fate of many remaining unknown.
According to Hal Vash, the regime has sent private messages to Mowlavi Abdolhamid through influential tribal figures, threatening to arrest him and destroy Makki Mosque in which he delivers sermons.
The increase of threats, along with mass arrest of Baluch youths, has raised concerns about the possibility of another brutal attack by the regime on Zahedan protesters.