IRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the US and Israel for the protests that have erupted in different parts of the country, following the death of a young Kurdish woman in police custody.
In his first public comments about the rapid protests all across the country, which have turned rabid in these past few days, Khamenei said “riot” had been “engineered” by Iran’s arch rivals and their allies, namely the United States and Israel.
The protests pose the biggest challenge to his rule in a decade, and he urged security forces to be ready for more demonstrations and pushback.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said he was “gravely concerned” about reports of the “intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.”
Those protesters were calling for “just and universal principles“, he said, adding that the US “stands with Iranian women” who were “inspiring the world with their bravery”.
The UK followed echoed the sentiment and expressed solidarity with the protesters, by summoning Iran’s most senior diplomat in London to tell their leaders in Tehran that “instead of blaming external actors for the unrest, they should take responsibility for their actions and listen to the concerns of their people”.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman was detained by Iran’s nefarious ‘morality police’ on 13 September over her “unsuitable attire”. She was reportedly beaten up and bludgeoned in the head by a baton, with her head banged against the side of a police vehicle, resulting in a serious injury that triggered a coma. She eventually died in the hospital.
While protesters confirm that Amini was subjected to police torture and brutality, the police claim that Amini’s death was caused by “sudden heart failure”.
Women have been at the forefront of the battle against the moral laws and strict codes of conduct perpetuated by the morality police. They began flourishing their headscarves in the open or setting them on fire, chanting “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”- a reference to Ayatollah Khamenei.
Addressing a graduation ceremony of police and armed forces cadets on Monday, the supreme leader said Amini’s death “broke our hearts”.
“But what is not normal is that some people, without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous, burned the Quran, removed hijabs from veiled women and set fire to mosques and cars,” he added, without mentioning any specific incidents.
Ayatollah, who is the supreme head of the state and has the final say on all state matters, asserted that foreign powers, especially the West, were to blame for the chaos in the country.
Khamenei proposed that the US and its ally, namely Israel, had incited “rioting” because they could not tolerate Iran “attaining strength in all spheres.”
“I say clearly that these riots and the insecurity were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime [Israel], as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad.”
The Supreme Leader often blames external forces for internal rebellion on meddling by Iran’s foreign rivals, and he provided no evidence to support his claim.
He also gave his full backing to the security forces, saying that they had faced “injustice” during the unrest.
Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group, has said at least 133 people have been killed by security forces so far. State media have reported that more than 40 people have died, including security personnel.
The US has also placed sanctions on the morality police and denounced any further violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s controversial comments came a day after police personnel were seen tackling students at a protest in one of Iran’s most prestigious educational institutions, Sharif University, reportedly arresting dozens.
Some students who were trying to flee through a car park were picked up by one police personnel and beaten, then blindfolded and taken away, according to BBC correspondent Kasra Naji who was present at the scene.
The siege was lifted later in the night following the intervention of professors and a government minister.
On Monday, students at the university announced they would not go back to classes until their fellow students had been released.