- The commander of the elite force issues one of the starkest warnings yet
- Human rights groups report new demonstrations, bloodshed
- The Revolutionary Guard has not been deployed since the beginning of the protests
Oct 29 (Reuters) – The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warned protesters that Saturday would be their last day on the streets, in the clearest sign yet that security forces may step up their fierce crackdown on national unrest .
Iran has been gripped by protests since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in moral police custody last month, posing one of the boldest challenges to clerical leaders since the 1979 revolution.
“Don’t go out on the streets! Today is the last day of the uprising,” said Guard commander Hossein Salami in one of the strongest terms used in the crisis, which Iran’s leaders blame on its external enemies, including Israel and the United States.
“This sinister plan is a plan concocted … in the White House and the Zionist regime,” Salami said. “Don’t sell your honor to America and slap the security forces that protect you in the face.
Iranians defied such warnings during the popular uprising, in which women played an important role. On Saturday, there were new reports of fresh bloodshed and renewed protests.
Human rights group Hengaw reported that security forces shot dead students at a girls’ school in the city of Sakez. Another report said security forces opened fire on students at the Kurdish University of Medicine, in the Kurdistan provincial capital of Sanandaj.
Several students were wounded, one of them shot in the head, Hengau said. Reuters was unable to verify the report.
PROTESTERS IN COURT
The feared Revolutionary Guard, an elite force with a track record of crushing dissent that reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not been deployed since the demonstrations began last month.
But Salami’s warning suggests Khamenei may unleash them in the face of relentless demonstrations now focused on ousting the Islamic Republic.
Videos posted on social media by activist groups purported to show protests at a number of universities across the country in cities including Kerman, Mashhad, Qazvin, Ahvaz, Arak, Kermanshah, Yazd and a dozen campuses in the capital Tehran.
Activist news agency HRANA released a video showing protesters at a university holding hands in a large circle and chanting: “If we don’t unite, we will be killed one by one.”
HRANA said 272 protesters were killed in Friday’s unrest, including 39 minors. Around 34 members of the security forces were also killed. Nearly 14,000 people have been arrested in protests in 129 cities and towns and about 115 universities, it said.
The hardline Revolutionary Court has begun trials of some of the 315 protesters charged so far in Tehran, at least five of whom are charged with felonies, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The defendants include a man accused of hitting and killing a police officer with his car and injuring five others, IRNA said. He is charged with “spreading corruption across the land,” a crime punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic law.
Another man has been charged with the serious crime of “mohareb” – an Islamic term meaning war against God – for allegedly stabbing police and helping set fire to a government building in a town near Tehran, IRNA added.
The court is headed by Abolghasem Salawati, a judge who was sanctioned by the United States in 2019 after accusing him of punishing Iranian nationals and dual nationals for exercising their freedom of speech and assembly.
Salami issued his warning to protesters while speaking at a funeral for victims killed in an attack this week claimed by Islamic State.
A man who said he carried out the attack that killed 15 worshipers at the Shah Cheragh shrine in the city of Shiraz appeared to pledge allegiance to the militant group in a video posted on her Telegram account on Saturday.
[email protected]; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Helen Popper and Frances Carey
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