- The protests show no signs of abating amid fierce state warnings
- University students clash with security forces
- Journalists demand the release of their imprisoned colleagues
- Rights groups report arrests of activists, students
DUBAI, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Weeks of protests in Iran took a more violent turn on Sunday as students ignored an ultimatum from the Revolutionary Guards and were met with tear gas, beatings and gunfire from riot police and militia, social media videos showed.
Clashes at dozens of universities sparked threats of a tougher crackdown in the seventh week of demonstrations since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by morality police for inappropriate clothing.
Iranians from all walks of life have been protesting since Amini’s death.
What began as outrage over Amini’s death on September 16 has turned into one of the most serious challenges to the clerics since the 1979 revolution, with some protesters calling for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told protesters that Saturday would be their last day on the streets, the strongest warning yet from Iranian authorities.
However, videos on social media, which Reuters could not verify, showed confrontations between students and riot police and Basij forces at universities across Iran on Sunday.
One video showed a member of the Basij force firing a gun at close range at protesting students outside a branch of Azad University in Tehran. Gunshots could also be heard in a video shared by the rights group HENGAW of protests at Kurdistan University in Sanand.
Videos from some other universities in the city also showed Basia’s forces opening fire on students.
Across the country, security forces tried to block students in university buildings, firing tear gas and beating protesters with batons. The students, who appeared to be unarmed, pushed back, some chanting “down with the dishonorable Basij” and “Death to Khamenei”.
HISTORY OF ROBBERY
Social media reported the arrests of at least a dozen doctors, journalists and artists since Saturday.
An activist from the HRANA news agency said that 283 protesters, including 44 minors, had died in the riots on Saturday. Around 34 members of the security forces were also killed.
More than 14,000 people, including 253 students, have been arrested in protests in 132 cities and 122 universities, the statement said.
The Guardians and allied Basij forces have suppressed dissent in the past. They said on Sunday that they were being insulted by “dozens” in universities and on the streets, and warned that they could use more force if anti-government unrest continued.
“So far, the Basij have shown restraint and been patient,” state news agency IRNA quoted Brigadier General Mohammadreza Mahdavi, head of the Khorasan Junubi Province Revolutionary Guard, as saying.
“But it will get out of our control if the situation continues.”
In a statement published in Iran’s Etemad and other newspapers on Sunday, more than 300 Iranian journalists demanded the release of two colleagues jailed for covering Amini.
Niloofar Hamedi photographed Amini’s parents hugging each other in a Tehran hospital where their daughter lay in a coma.
The picture, which Hamedi posted on Twitter, was the first signal to the world that all was not well with Amini, who was detained three days ago by Iran’s morality police for dressing inappropriately.
Elaheh Mohammadi covered Amini’s funeral in her Kurdish hometown of Sakas, where the protests began. In a joint statement released Friday by Iran’s intelligence ministry and the Revolutionary Guards intelligence organization, Hamedi and Mohammadi were accused of being foreign agents of the CIA.
The arrests are consistent with the official narrative that Iran’s arch-enemy, the United States, Israel and other Western powers, as well as their domestic agents, are behind the unrest and are determined to destabilize the country.
According to rights groups, at least 40 journalists have been detained in the past six weeks and the number is rising.
Students and women have played a prominent role in the unrest, burning their veils as crowds call for the collapse of the Islamic Republic, which came to power in 1979.
The official said on Sunday that the authority has no plans to deviate from the mandatory cover, but it needs to be “smart” about enforcement.
“Removing the veil is against our laws and this headquarters will not budge from its position,” Ali Hanmohammadi, a spokesman for Iran’s headquarters for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, told Khabaronline.
“However, our actions must be wise so as not to give our enemies an excuse to use it against us.”
The apparent hint of compromise is unlikely to appease the protesters, most of whose demands have shifted beyond the dress code to calls for an end to clerical rule.
In another apparent attempt to defuse the situation, parliament speaker Mohammad Baker Kalibaf said the people were right to demand change and their demands would be met if they distanced themselves from the “criminals” taking to the streets.
“We believe that protests are not only right and a cause of progress, but we also believe that these social movements will change politics and decisions, as long as they are separated from violent people, criminals and separatists,” he said, using the terms officials. usually used for protestors.
Written by Michael George; Edited by Nick McPhee, Philippa Fletcher and Angus McSwan
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.