Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei backs police at Masa Amini protests, may signal tougher crackdown

DUBAI—Iran’s supreme leader on Monday expressed his full support for security forces fighting protests sparked by the custodial death of Masa Amini. Comments that could herald a tougher crackdown to calm fears more than two weeks after her death.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in his first remarks addressing the death of 22-year-old Amini after he was arrested by morality police for “improperly dressed,” Amini’s death “teared my heart deeply.” , called it a “bitter incident” caused by Iran’s enemies.

Masa Amini
File photo Masa Amini. (IranWire via Reuters)

“The duty of our security forces, including the police, is to ensure the safety of the Iranian people…Those who attack the police leave Iranian citizens vulnerable to thugs, robbers and extortionists.” Tehran.

Security forces, including police and volunteer Basij militias, have led a crackdown on the protests, with thousands arrested and hundreds wounded, according to human rights groups.

Iranian officials have reported the killing of many members of the security forces during the unrest, which has escalated into the largest protest against Iranian authorities in years, with many accused of practicing Islamic clericism for more than four decades. He seeks an end to human rule.

Ayatollah Khamenei said security forces faced “injustice” during the protests.

Ayatollah Khamenei said that “some people are causing unrest in the streets” and lashed out at what he described as a “riot” that he planned to throw the Islamic Republic’s biggest enemies the United States and Israel into chaos. accused of adjusting

The crackdown on protests has drawn widespread international condemnation. The White House condemned the crackdown, and Britain summoned Iran’s acting envoy to denounce the crackdown as “genuinely shocking.”

iranian protest
Protesters chant slogans during a protest against the death of a woman detained by moral police in downtown Tehran, Iran, on September 21, 2022. (obtained by AP)

“severe punishment”

Within hours of Amini’s funeral in the Kurdish town of Saqez on September 17, thousands of Iranians flooded streets across the country and burned pictures of Khamenei, according to social media videos. , chanted “Death to the Dictator”.

Still, officials and analysts told Reuters news agency that the Islamic Republic is unlikely to collapse in the near future.

But the confusion calls into question the priorities that defined Khamenei’s rule: survival at all costs of the Islamic Republic and its religious elite 40 years ago.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “Those who cause unrest to interfere with the Islamic Republic deserve severe prosecution and punishment.”

Despite rising death tolls and a violent crackdown by security forces using tear gas, clubs and, in some cases, live ammunition according to videos from social media and human rights groups, the protests have not subsided.

Ignoring Ayatollah Khamenei’s warnings, Iranians in several cities chanted “I want regime change” and “Death to Ayatollah” from rooftops at night. This is a form of protest used in the 1979 revolution that turned Iran into an Islamic republic.

In an unprecedented move, high school students from more than a dozen cities joined protests, refusing to attend classes and walking the streets without forced headscarves. was seen chanting “freedom, freedom”.

Demonstrations also spread to dozens of universities, with college students going on strike to protest a late Sunday attack by security forces at Tehran’s famous Sharif University. Students were arrested and many were injured.

Parisa Hafezi