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Iranian forces arrest Mahsa Amini’s uncle before anniversary of her death

Activists accuse Iran of stepping up crackdown as September 16 nears, following a year of mass protests sparked by the 22-year-old Kurdish woman’s death in custody

PARIS, France — Iranian authorities on Tuesday arrested an uncle of Mahsa Amini, the young Iranian Kurdish woman who died in custody sparking months of protests, just ahead of the first anniversary of her death, reports said on Tuesday.

Safa Aeli, 30, was arrested by security forces in the family’s hometown of Saqez in western Iran and taken to an unknown location, the Kurdish-focused Hengaw rights group, France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network and the 1500tasvir protest monitor said in separate statements.

Hengaw said Iranian authorities deployed a convoy of five vehicles filled with members of the security forces to forcibly enter Aeli’s residence, without presenting any legal documentation.

Media based outside Iran have said that the town of Saqez is under particular scrutiny ahead of the anniversary, with hotels told not to accept outsiders and new security cameras being set up including around Amini’s grave.

The uncle’s arrest comes as activists accuse the Iranian government of stepping up a crackdown ahead of the September 16 anniversary of the death of Amini, 22, who had been arrested days before for allegedly violating the strict dress rules for women.

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The ensuing protests shook Iran’s Islamic authorities but have now subsided in the face of a crackdown in which rights groups said hundreds were killed and the UN tallied thousands arrested.

Video from the Iranian city of Saqez shows mourners gathering at the cemetery where Mahsa Amini is buried, to mark 40 days since her death, October 26, 2022. (Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Campaign groups, including Amnesty International, have accused Iran of arresting and interrogating family members of those killed in the protests in a bid to force them into silence and prevent further demonstrations from erupting.

Activists say those arrested in recent weeks include Mashallah Karami, the father of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, one of seven men to have been hanged so far in cases related to the protests.