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Tribal Tensions Simmer in South-Western Iranian City Over Local Election

Social media users in Iran report continued tension over local election results in Yasuj, a city mainly of settled nomads in Kohgiluye and Boyer-Ahmad province, south-west Iran, after Friday’s election. The city prosecutor, Seyed-Ali Malek-Hosseini, confirmed Sunday 100 had been arrested on polling day.

Locals have claimed there is martial law in the city and have published videos of security forces where gunshots can be heard. They say the clashes are rooted in rivalries between various clans − the Tirtaji, Tamoradi and Goudarzi − and began on Saturday [June19] when the announcement of local-election results was delayed and rumors as to the winners circulated on social media.

According to these accounts, supporters of Tirtaji candidates, some of whom had been defeated, gathered in front of the governor's office to protest and were attacked by security forces with batons and plastic bullets.

On Monday Brigadier-General Keyghobad Mostafaee, the provincial law-enforcement commander, denied the authenticity of one video claiming three protesters had been killed and promised to identify and arrest those responsible for the video. Mostafaee said the video,  showing three unconscious young men and a crowd calling for help, was taken months ago during a domestic gas poisoning incident in another province. 

Yasuj, set amid the Zagros mountains, has a population of nearly 650,000 and a strong tribal structure. Many nomads in southern Iran – including the huge Qashqai and Bakhtiari confederations – have been encouraged by the government to settle in recent decades, old customs, including holding guns, have proved resilient.

Malek-Hosseini, the city prosecutor, said Sunday that over 100 protesters, a representative of the city's governor, and several election supervisors were detained Friday. He said the delay in announcing results, which led to suspicions of vote-rigging, had resulted from a malfunction of electronic equipment.

The results of local elections, held simultaneously with the presidential election on Friday June 18, have not yet all been announced across Iran. The turnout in the presidential election in Kohgiluye and Boyer-Ahmad province was 62.6 percent, higher than a national average of 48.8 percent. Hotly contested local elections in Iran usually help boost turnout for the presidential vote.

In many areas the turnout in local elections was higher than in the presidential election. Some of those voting in the presidential election with a blank ballot paper may also have backed candidates for the local council.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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