Iran’s Ayatollah breaks silence on anti-government “riots”, calls uprising a US-Israeli plot

Iran’s “anti-hijab” protests are now in their third week, with a Norway-based monitor, Iran Human Rights (IHR), saying that at this point at least 92 Iranians have died as a result of the ongoing security services crackdown. 

Demonstrations and unrest have gripped dozens of cities, including parts of the Iranian capital, following last month’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, which sparked a wave of anger, especially among women who are demanding equal rights. But on Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has weighed in on the protests for the first time, after having remained silent since their beginning. 

He laid blame on the United States and Israel for fueling the unrest as part of efforts to fragment the Islamic Republic and its government, implying an ongoing regime change plot.

“I say explicitly that these riots and this insecurity were a design by the US and the occupying, fake Zionist regime [Israel] and those who are paid by them, and some traitorous Iranians abroad helped them,” Khamenei said.

Interestingly enough, the scathing words were issued at a graduation ceremony for police cadets in Tehran. Top officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were also said to be present for the speech.

“In the accident that happened, a young woman passed away, which also pained us, but reactions to her death before investigations [take place] … when some come to make the streets insecure, burn Qurans, take hijabs off covered women, and burn mosques and people’s cars – they’re not a normal, natural reaction,” Khamenei said.

His fiery denunciation of the protests as an externally driven plot, which have in some cases led to clashes with police and reported instances of live ammunition used by state forces to quell the unrest, strongly suggests that the crackdown is about to get a lot worse.

The weekend saw rare protests take over Tehran University, leading to a police raid on the campus, with riot control measures deployed. It briefly led to a standoff, also as internet and social media platforms continue to be limited and in some areas blocked.

“Students were demonstrating inside the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in the capital on Sunday afternoon when riot police surrounded the university for several hours, trapping the students and leaving several injured, before arresting a number of them in the latest crackdown on protesters, according to an official university students’ association and reports on local outlets,” Al Jazeera reported.

“The campus was eventually cleared, but surrounding streets remained busy until after midnight. After Sunday’s events, Sharif University announced that all classes would be held online until further notice,” the report added, noting that demonstrations also broke out at large university campuses in Shiraz, Mashhad, and other large cities.

The Iranian Islamic ‘Supreme Leader’s’ fierce protest denunciation in the speech made before security services means things are more than likely about to get worse as police go “gloves off”. 



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