Last week, numerous calls were disseminated on social media for strikes and protests from Tuesday to Thursday. The immediate reason was to mark the third anniversary of the 2019 protests over fuel prices.
Despite the intensity of the calls, the majority of Iranians refused to go along with them. And the few people who took to the streets fell victim to terrorist attacks and stray bullets from rioters.
One such attack took place in the southwestern city of Izen, Khuzestan, which claimed the life of at least seven individuals, including 9-year-old Kiyan Pirfalak, whose death sparked national grief.
The orders for investigation were quick to be issued from Tehran. Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi called the governor-general of Khuzestan province, Sadegh Khalilian, instructing him to look into what had transpired in Izeh.
Raeisi “ordered the security and law enforcement agencies to urgently identify the perpetrators of this terrorist attack and hand them over to the judicial system for punishment,” a statement by the Iranian presidency said.
Khalilian said 11 individuals have been arrested in connection with the Izeh attack.
Ayatollah Raeisi also offered his condolences to the families of the martyrs of this incident and ordered the provision of all the necessary facilities to treat the injured.
The perpetrators of the Izeh attack were arrested while trying to flee the country, according to Mohsen Rezaei, the vice president for economic affairs.
Rezaei also said the enemy wants to replicate the Syria crisis in Iran. “The enemy, through creating insecurity, is aspiring to Syrianize [Iran] but this dream will not materialize with the mighty and knowing presence of this great nation,” he said, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA.
The casualties were not confined to Izeh, though the city recorded the highest number. According to a Fars News tally, more than a dozen were killed in other cities: Three in Boukan (West Azerbaijan province), three in Mashhad, three in Isfahan, two in Sanandaj (Kurdistan), two in Saravan (Sistan and Baluchistan province), one in Qarveh (Kurdistan), and one in Shiraz.
The remarkable surge in casualties comes as Iranian authorities continue to warn of a hybrid war waged by the enemy to undermine the Islamic Republic of Iran by bringing about a civil war like the Syrian one.
“Security services, the fake Israeli regime, and some western politicians, who have prepared plots for civil war, destruction, and partitioning of Iran, must know that Iran is not another Libya or Sudan,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter.
He added, “Today, enemies have directed their aims at the territorial integrity and identity of Iran. People’s insight has disappointed the enemies. #Powerful Iran.”
Iran has said it is facing a hybrid war that is pursued through sanctions, media, terrorist attacks, social media campaigns, etc.
In this war, the media is playing a key role. While Iranian news organizations have been sanctioned by the West, many foreign-based media outlets are openly encouraging ordinary Iranians into resorting to violence.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan'ani denounced the West’s double standards in this regard. “Giving a free hand and voice to terrorist networks and media for acts of mischief against the Iranian nation while imposing sanctions on the IRIB and Press TV in order to prevent Iran’s views and positions from reaching the world are a continuation of the US administration’s brazen violations of the Iranian nation's rights. America’s crimes against independent nations and governments are never-ending,” Kan'ani said on Twitter.
Over the last two months, Iranian authorities exercised maximum restraint in order to contain the unrest, which erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini. But the surge in casualties has ramped up pressure on the authorities to change their modus operandi in dealing with the unrest. Many are now calling on the government to employ tougher measures to restore order and calm.