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Tear gas students from the security forces defy the ultimatum of the Iranian protest

Tear gas students from the security forces defy the ultimatum of the Iranian protest
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  • Despite strong government warnings, the protests show no signs of easing
  • University students clash with security guards
  • Journalists are demanding the release of their imprisoned colleagues
  • Rights groups report arrests of activists, students

DUBAI, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Protests in Iran entered a more violent phase on Sunday as students who defied an ultimatum from the Revolutionary Guards and a warning from the president were met with tear gas and gunfire from security forces, and videos from social media showed.

The confrontations at dozens of universities led to threats of tougher action in a seventh week of demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by morality police for improper dress.

“Security is the Islamic Republic’s red line and we will not allow the enemy to implement their plans to undermine this precious national asset,” hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi said, according to state media.

Iranians from all walks of life have taken to the streets since Amini’s death in protests that religious rulers said would endanger the security of the Islamic Republic.

Authorities have accused Islamic Iran’s arch-enemies, the United States and Israel, and their local agents of being behind the unrest aimed at destabilizing the country.

What started as outrage over Amini’s death on 9/16 has turned into one of the toughest challenges to ecclesiastical rulers since the 1979 revolution, with some protesters calling for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The commander-in-chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told protesters that Saturday would be their last day to take to the streets, the Iranian authorities’ strongest warning yet.

Still, 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.

A video showed a member of the Basij forces firing a gun at close range at students protesting at a branch of Azad University in Tehran. Gunshots were also heard in a video shared by rights group HENGAW of protests at the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj.

Videos from universities in some other cities also showed Basij troops opening fire on students.

Across the country, security forces tried to confine students in university buildings, fired tear gas and beat protesters with batons. The students, who appeared to be unarmed, pushed back and chanted “dishonor Basij, go away” and “death Khamenei”.

HISTORY OF EXECUTIONS

Social media have reported the arrests of at least a dozen doctors, journalists and artists since Saturday. The activist HRANA news agency said 283 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Saturday, including 44 minors. About 34 members of the security forces were also killed.

More than 14,000 people, including 253 students, were arrested during protests in 132 cities and 122 universities, it said.

The Guard and its affiliated Basij force have historically quashed dissent. They said on Sunday “rioters” would insult them at universities and on the streets, and warned they could use more violence if anti-government unrest continues.

“So far, Basijis have shown restraint and patience,” the head of the Revolutionary Guards in Khorasan Junubi province, Brigadier General Mohammadreza Mahdavi, was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

“But it will be out of our control if the situation continues.”

JOURNALISTS APPEAL

More than 300 Iranian journalists called for the release of two colleagues jailed for their reporting on Amini, in a statement published Sunday by Iran’s Etemad and other newspapers.

Niloofar Hamedi snapped a photo of Amini’s parents hugging at a hospital in Tehran where their daughter was in a coma.

The picture Hamedi posted on Twitter was the first signal to the world that all was not well with Amini, who had been arrested three days earlier by Iran’s vice squad for allegedly wearing inappropriate clothing.

Elaheh Mohammadi reported on Amini’s funeral in her Kurdish hometown of Saqez, where the protests began. In a joint statement released on Friday by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards intelligence organization, Hamedi and Mohammadi were accused of being foreign agents for the CIA.

Students and women have featured prominently in the riots, burning their veils as crowds demanded the overthrow of the Islamic Republic that came to power in 1979.

An official said Sunday the establishment had no plan to back away from mandatory veiling but should be “smart” in enforcing it.

“Removing the veil is against our law and this headquarters will not withdraw from its position,” Ali Khanmohammadi, the spokesman for Iran’s headquarters for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice, told the Khabaronline website.

“However, our actions should be wise, so as not to give enemies an excuse to use them against us.”

In another apparent attempt to defuse the situation, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said people are right to demand reforms and their demands will be met if they distance themselves from the “criminals” taking to the streets.

“Not only do we think the protests are right and for progress, but we also believe that these social movements will change policies and decisions provided they are separated from violent people, criminals and separatists,” he said, using the terms officials usually use for the protesters.

writing by Michael Georgy and Parisa Hafezi; Edited by Nick Macfie, Philippa Fletcher, Angus MacSwan and Barbara Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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