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Outcry In Southern Iran After Police Kill Fuel Smuggler

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Residents of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran took to the street in protest after local police fatally shot a fuel smuggler and severely wounded another.

According to Kolbar News, the demonstration, held on Tuesday, saw citizens gathering in front of the governor’s office, vocally opposing what they called “killer police.” The protestors then entered the building, demanding answers and accountability for the police action.

The incident occurred on Monday evening when officers from Bandar Abbas opened fire on a vehicle carrying fuel without any prior warning. The attack resulted in the death of 20-year-old Amir Mohammad Chatr Sahar and left another man injured. Chatr Sahar was known to be from the Jamal Ahmad area of Bandar Abbas where around half the population lives in poverty, but details about the injured party remain undisclosed.

The event highlights ongoing issues in other provinces like Sistan-Baluchestan, where the annual shooting of fuel smugglers by military forces claims the lives of hundreds. Reports suggest that between March 20 and 30 alone, 27 fuel smugglers died by security forces, road accidents, and vehicle fires. Victims were typically young, between 18 and 28 years old.

In 2023, at least 172 Baluch fuel smugglers were reported dead with 42 others injured, reflecting a dire economic crisis that compels many in Iran’s poorest provinces to engage in fuel smuggling to neighboring countries like Pakistan. The activity offers a vital, albeit risky, source of income due to higher fuel prices across the border.

Human rights organizations and activists continue to criticize the Iranian government for its discriminatory policies towards minority-dominated provinces such as Sistan-Baluchestan and Kordestan. These areas suffer from a lack of employment opportunities and governmental neglect, factors which significantly contribute to the prevalence of fuel smuggling.