Iranian security forces deployed in the hometown of Mahsa Amini in anticipation of a flare-up in unrest marking this weekend's first anniversary of her death in morality police custody, witnesses, social media posts and rights groups said on Friday.
The death on Sept. 16 of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd arrested for allegedly flouting the Islamic Republic's mandatory dress code, sparked months of anti-government protests that spiralled into the biggest show of opposition to the authorities in years, reports Reuters.
Many, with women and young people often at the forefront, called for an end to more than four decades of Shi'ite clerical rule. Over 500 people including 71 minors were killed in the protests, hundreds injured and thousands arrested in unrest that was eventually crushed by security forces, rights groups said.
Meanwhile, Iranian security forces released Mahsa Amini's father on Saturday after briefly detaining and warning him against marking the anniversary of her death, a human rights group said.
"Security forces detained Amjad Amini today and returned him to his house after threatening him against marking his daughter's death anniversary," the Kurdistan Human Rights network said.
In Amini’s birthplace in Iran's western province of Kurdistan, a rights activist said there was a "heavy presence of security forces".
Another activist said a small gathering of protesters chanted anti-government slogans before quickly dispersing.
The activists spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a fear of government reprisals amid a growing clampdown on dissent as the anniversary approached.
Social media posts spoke of security force deployments in several cities, mainly within Kurdistan. The reports could not be immediately verified.
In a statement, the Norway-based human rights group Hengaw said several Kurdish cities in western Iran “have experienced an atmosphere of intimidation and the declaration of a state of war in recent days”. It said numerous citizens had been detained.
Hengaw added that military personnel were positioned on top of Tapeh Qawkh, a hill overlooking Saqez, while residents had witnessed a surge in helicopter activity over the city.
Social media posts quoted Saqez residents as saying that authorities had installed new surveillance cameras around the city, apparently to monitor and identify protesters.
Reuters could not verify any of these accounts.