By Erin Viner
In the harshest warning yet by Iranian authorities, a top IRGC Commander demanded that protests end this past Saturday.
“So far, Basijis have shown restraint and they have been patient, but it will get out of our control if the situation continues,” said Brigadier General Mohammadreza Mahdavi in remarks reported by the state IRNA news agency.
Insisting that “seditionists” are insulting them at universities and in the streets, the IRGC warned again yesterday of the likelihood of increased force if the anti-government unrest continue.
Backing up that threat, hardline President Ebrahim Raisi stated, “Security is the red line of the Islamic Republic, and we will not allow the enemy to implement in any way its plans to undermine this valuable national asset.” The Iranian leader has steadfastly blamed archenemies Israel, the United States and their ‘local agents’ of instigating the unrest in attempts to destabilize the country.
Public demonstrations began seven weeks ago after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody on 16 September, following her arrest by the so-called “morality police” for attire deemed insufficiently Islamic.
Iranians from all backgrounds taken to the streets to express fury over Amini’s death and suppression of human rights by clerical rulers in the country; manifesting one of the toughest challenges to the Ayatollah Regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with some protesters calling for the deaths of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Raisi.
Marking the start of what appears to be a more violent phase of the crackdown by authorities, students at dozens of universities nationwide defied the IRGC ultimatum by resuming protests yesterday.
Videos circulated on social media showed showed Basij forces shooting at students at several universities, including the firing of a weapon at close range toward students at a branch of Azad University in Tehran. Gunshots were also heard in a video shared by rights group HENGAW from rallies at the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj.
Security forces also fired tear gas and used sticks to beat protesters, who appeared to be unarmed, with some chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “dishonored Basij get lost.”
Against the backdrop of the raging violence in Iran, Germany and the European Union are discussing designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Berlin’s top diplomat also confirmed there are currently no negotiations about revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Action nuclear agreement between Iran and the West.
The protests are the largest to sweep the country since demonstrations over fuel prices in 2019, when an estimated 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown on protesters – the bloodiest confrontation in the Islamic Republic’s history.
283 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Saturday, including 44 minors; over 14,000 people have been arrested, including 253 students, in protests in 132 cities and towns, and 122 universities, according to the HRANA activist news agency.