Iranian Guard chief warns protesters: ‘Today is the last day of unrest’

Iranian Guard chief warns protesters: 'Today is the last day of unrest'
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  • Elite Force Commander is issuing one of the toughest warnings yet
  • Rights groups report new demonstrations, bloodshed
  • Revolutionary Guards not deployed since protests began

DUBAI, Oct 29 (Reuters) – The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps warned protesters that Saturday would be their last day to take to the streets, in the clearest sign that security forces were cracking down on their already crackdown widespread unrest could increase.

Iran has been gripped by protests since the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amin in the custody of moral police last month and presented one of the boldest challenges to clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.

“Don’t come out into the street! Today is the last day of the unrest,” said the commander of the guards, Hossein Salami, in some of the harshest language used in the crisis, which the Iranian leadership blames on its foreign enemies, including Israel and the United States.

“This sinister plan is a plan hatched in the White House and in the Zionist regime,” Salami said. “Don’t sell your honor to America and don’t slap the security forces who defend you in the face.”

Iranians have defied such warnings throughout the popular revolt, in which women have played a prominent role. On Saturday there were further reports of bloodshed and renewed protests.

Human rights group Hengaw reported that security forces shot dead students at a girls’ school in the town of Saqez. Another post said security forces opened fire on students at a medical university in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province.

Several students were injured, including one shot in the head, Hengaw said. Reuters could not verify the report.

More protests erupted late Saturday in the Kurdish city of Marivan, according to social media videos that showed protesters setting fires in the street when gunshots were heard. Reuters could not verify the videos.

The @1500tasvir Twitter account, which has nearly 300,000 followers, posted videos showing protesters in the northwestern city of Astara lighting a bonfire using police-seized debris and motorbikes.

Meanwhile, @1500tasvir and other Twitter accounts said security forces surrounded some campuses including Mashhad Azad University and Tehran University Faculty of Technology to arrest student activists.

In another show of defiance, protesters in the small northern town of Lasht-e Nesha staged a vocal street rally, shouting “clergymen must go!” according to video posted to @1500tasvir.

The footage could not be authenticated by Reuters.

protesters in court

The widely feared Revolutionary Guards, an elite force with a track record of crushing dissent and reporting directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have not been deployed since the demonstrations began last month.

But Salami’s warning suggests Khamenei could unleash it in the face of relentless demonstrations now focused on overthrowing the Islamic Republic.

Videos previously posted by activist groups on social media are said to be protests at a number of universities across the country in cities including Kerman, Mashhad, Qazvin, Ahvaz, Arak, Kermanshah, Yazd, Bushehr and a dozen campuses in the capital, Tehran demonstrate.

The activist news agency HRANA said 272 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Friday, including 39 minors. About 34 members of the security forces were also killed. Almost 14,000 people were arrested during protests in 129 cities and around 115 universities, it said.

An uncompromising Revolutionary Court has started the trials of some of the 315 protesters charged so far in Tehran, at least five of whom face capital crimes, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The defendants include a man accused of hitting a police officer with his car and killing him and injuring five others, IRNA said. He is charged with “spreading corruption around the world,” a crime punishable by death under Islamic law in Iran.

Another man is facing charges of the capital crime of “moharebeh,” an Islamic term meaning war against God, for allegedly attacking police with a knife and helping set fire to a government building in a town near Tehran , added IRNA.

The court is headed by Abolghassem Salavati, a judge sanctioned by the United States in 2019 after accusing him of punishing Iranian citizens and dual citizens for exercising their freedom of speech and association.

Salami warned protesters while speaking at a funeral for victims killed in one attack this week claimed by the Islamic State.

A man who the militant group said carried out the attack that killed 15 worshipers at the Shah Cheragh shrine in the city of Shiraz pledged support to Islamic State in a video posted to his Telegram account on Saturday . Iranian officials said he died from injuries sustained during his arrest.

Newsroom reporting in Dubai; additional reporting by Moaz Abd-Alziz in Cairo; Writing by Michael Georgy Editing by Frances Kerry, Christina Fincher and Chris Reese

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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