- The elite force commander has issued the toughest warning yet
- Rights groups report fresh protests, bloodshed
- The Revolutionary Guard has not been deployed since the protests began
DUBAI, Oct 29 (Reuters) – The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warned protesters that Saturday would be their last day on the streets, in a clear sign that security forces could intensify their already fierce crackdown on widespread unrest.
Protests have been ongoing in Iran since the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in its custody Morality police Last month, one of the boldest challenges to the pastoral leadership since the 1979 revolution.
“Don’t come to the streets! Today is the last day of rioting,” Guard commander Hossein Salami said in some of the harshest language used in the crisis, which Iran’s leaders blame on its foreign enemies, including Israel and the United States.
“This is a sinister plan, a plan created between the White House and the Zionist regime,” Salami said. “Don’t sell your honor to America and slap the security forces who are protecting you.”
Iranians have maintained such vigilance throughout popular uprisings in which women have played a prominent role. More bloodshed and renewed protests were reported on Saturday.
Human rights group Hengao said security forces were shooting students at a girls’ school in the city of Saqqez. Another post said security forces opened fire on students at a medical university in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province.
Hengao said several students were injured, including one shot in the head. Reuters could not verify the report.
Later on Saturday, more protests broke out in the Kurdish city of Marivan, according to social media videos that showed protesters opening fire in the streets as gunshots rang out. Reuters could not verify the videos.
The Twitter account @1500tasvir, which has nearly 300,000 followers, posted video showing protesters in the northwestern city of Astara setting fire to motorbikes and debris seized from police.
Meanwhile, @1500Tasvir and other Twitter accounts said that security forces surrounded several campuses, including Mashhad Azad University and Technical Faculty of Tehran University, to arrest student activists.
According to a video by @1500Tasvir, in another demonstration of protest, protesters in the small northern town of Last-e Nesha staged a loud street rally chanting, “The important must be lost!”
The footage could not be authenticated by Reuters.
Protesters at trial
The widely feared Revolutionary Guards, an elite force with a track record of crushing dissent that reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have not been deployed since protests began last month.
But Salami’s warning suggests that Khamenei may free them in the face of relentless protests now leading to the collapse of the Islamic Republic.
Videos posted earlier on social media by activist groups purported to show protests at several universities across the country, including a dozen campuses in Kerman, Mashhad, Qazvin, Ahvaz, Arak, Kermanshah, Yazd, Bushehr and the capital, Tehran.
Activist HRANA news agency reported that 272 protesters, including 39 minors, had been killed in the unrest as of Friday. 34 members of the security forces were also killed. About 14,000 people were arrested in protests in 129 cities and towns and about 115 universities, it said.
A hardline revolutionary court has started the trial of some of the 315 protesters charged so far in Tehran, including at least five accused of capital crimes, state news agency IRNA reported.
Among the defendants is a man accused of killing a police officer by hitting him with his car and injuring five others, IRNA reported. He has been charged with “spreading corruption in the world”, a crime punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic law.
Another man has been charged with the main crime of “moharebeh,” an Islamic term meaning war against God, for allegedly attacking police with a knife in a town near Tehran and helping set fire to a government building.
The court is headed by Abolghasem Salavati, a judge on whom the United States imposed sanctions in 2019, accusing him of punishing Iranian nationals and dual nationals for exercising their freedom of speech and assembly.
Salami issued his warning to protesters as he spoke at a funeral for the victims Attack this week Islamic State claimed.
A man the militant group said carried out the attack, which killed 15 worshipers at the Shah Cheragh shrine in the city of Shiraz, pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video posted on his Telegram account on Saturday. Iranian officials said he died of injuries sustained during his arrest.
Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Additional reporting by Moaz Abd-Alziz in Cairo; Editing by Frances Carey, Christina Fincher and Chris Reese Writing by Michael Georgiou
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