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Iranian Kurds Strike to Protest Hanging of 5 Young Detainees

Eyewitnesses report that Kurds are conducting a general strike in Sanandaj and other major cities in Iran's Kurdistan province to protest the recent hanging of five activists - four ethnic Kurds and one Iranian - in Tehran's Evin Prison. Iranian opposition Web sites report the streets of Sanandaj are deserted.

Iranian and Kurdish opposition Web sites showed videos and dozens of photos of closed shops and empty streets in towns and cities across the Iran's Kurdistan Province. Schools are reported to have been closed and many workers to have stayed home.

The strike was called by Kurdish political parties to protest the hangings over the weekend of five political detainees at Tehran's Evin Prison. The Iranian government accused the five of being "mohareb" or "enemies of God."

Khosrow Abdollahi, a Paris-based spokesman of the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party, says the call by his group for a general strike appears to have been a success.

He says in most Kurdish cities, including Sanandaj, Mahabad, Saqqez, Bokan, Kamyaran, and Nakadeh the call to strike was heeded by many.

The BBC Persian service showed commercial districts in several cities with almost all the shops shuttered, followed by scenes of empty streets and sidewalks with only a few pedestrians.

There were several unconfirmed reports of clashes with security forces and an eyewitness in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj told Radio Farda that he had seen reinforcements being sent in.

He says that when he went out to buy gasoline for his car, he caught a glimpse of government special security forces arriving in the street.

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr says that the executions by the government have sparked a firestorm of anger among Kurds and other Iranians:

He says that the executions were opposed by the vast majority of intellectuals and political parties in Iran and that many doubted the victims were guilty of any crime. He says that they were tried quickly, without witnesses, and many think the government hanged them to create fear among the people before the anniversary of what he calls last year's fraudulent (presidential) election. With the strike in Kurdistan, and protests in European cities, he says, the Iranian government has done just the opposite of what it intended and provoked outrage and protest.

Analyst Ali Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London says that he was surprised by the strong support by Iranian Kurds to the call to strike.

"I never expected that the strikes would be that successful, and I was talking to Kurdistan, both Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan, and most of the reports were the same," he said. "Ninety percent of the shops are closed and [although] a few shops, which are run by government ministries were open, people did not go to work. So, it was a quiet, positive response by the opposition."

A crowd of several-hundred demonstrators also gathered in front of the Iranian consulate in the Afghan city of Jalalabad to condemn the hangings. Protesters set fire to posters of Iranian leaders and chanted slogans against the Iranian government.