Still image from a video shows people wearing protective masks during a protest over economic hardship, on the streets of Behbahan, Iran on July 16 2020. Picture: REUTERS TV
Still image from a video shows people wearing protective masks during a protest over economic hardship, on the streets of Behbahan, Iran on July 16 2020. Picture: REUTERS TV

Tehran — Iranian police have arrested people behind protests that broke out last week in the southwest of the country, state news agency Irna reported on Monday.

“All the perpetrators of an illegal and norm-breaking gathering in Behbahan [city] were identified and arrested,” Khuzestan provinces police chief Heydar Abbas Zadeh was quoted as saying.

He did not say how many people were detained or identify them.

The protests occurred on Thursday “with a limited number of Behbahan residents gathering and shouting norm-breaking chants”, he said, a term usually used by Iranian authorities to refer to antisystem slogans.

At the time, Behbahan’s police said the crowd did not respond to calls to disperse and security forces broke up the protest “with firmness” and restored “calm” without there being any casualties or damage to property.

The gathering was “to protest the economic situation”, it added.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards announced on Thursday that they had arrested a number of “agitators” who had called for street protests in northeastern Mashhad city, and that they had also broken up a “terrorist group” linked to the People Mujaheddin of Iran (MEK) in southwestern Shiraz.

NetBlocks, a website that monitors international internet outages, said online access was restricted and disrupted for about three hours in Khuzestan around the time of the protest.

Khuzestan is a key oil-producing region that has often complained of official neglect.

Bordering Iraq, it is one of the few areas in mainly Shia Iran to have a large Sunni Arab community.

Iran’s economy has shrunk significantly since 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed punishing sanctions on the country.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened Iran’s economic woes with a temporary shutdown of the economy and reduced exports, leading to a sharp devaluation of its currency and rising inflation.

AFP