Students defy Iran protest ultimatum, unrest enters more dangerous phase

  • The protests show no sign of easing amid dire government warnings
  • University students clash with security forces
  • Journalists demand the release of their imprisoned colleagues
  • Rights groups report arrests of activists and students

DUBAI, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Weeks of protests in Iran took a more violent turn on Sunday as students defied an ultimatum by the Revolutionary Guards and faced tear gas, beatings and shootings by riot police and militia, according to social media.

Protests at dozens of universities led to threats of a tougher crackdown in the seventh week of protests since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by moral police for inappropriate clothing after his death.

Iranians from all walks of life protested after Amini’s death.

What began as anger over Amini’s death on September 16 has turned into one of the toughest challenges to clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution, with some protesters calling for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told the demonstrators that Saturday is the last day they will take to the streets, which is the most severe warning of the Iranian authorities so far.

However, video footage on social media, not verified by Reuters, showed students clashing with police and Basij forces at universities across Iran on Sunday.

In one video, a member of the Basij forces can be seen firing a weapon at close range at students who were protesting outside a branch of Azad University in Tehran. Gunshots were also heard in a video released by the human rights group HENGAW of demonstrations at Kurdistan University in Sanandaj.

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Videos from universities in other cities also show that Basij forces opened fire on students.

Across the country, security forces tried to lock students inside university buildings, tear gas and beat protesters with batons. The students, who appeared to be unarmed, pushed back chanting “Get lost Basij” and “Death to Khamenei”.

HISTORY OF THE CAGDONES

Social networks reported the arrest of at least a dozen doctors, journalists and artists since Saturday.

The activist HRANA news agency said that 283 protesters, including 44 minors, had been killed in the unrest as of Saturday. About 34 people from the security forces were also killed.

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

The Guards Corps and related Basij forces have repressed opposition in the past. They said on Sunday that “insurgents” were harassing them in universities and on the streets, and warned that they could use more force if the anti-government riots continued.

According to the state news agency IRNA, Brigadier General Mohammadreza Mahdavi, the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps in South Khurasan Province, said: “The Basij have shown restraint and patience so far.”

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

ADDRESS OF JOURNALISTS

More than 300 Iranian journalists, in a statement published by “Etemad” and other Iranian newspapers on Sunday, demanded the release of two of their colleagues who were jailed for covering about Amini.

Nilufar Hamadi shared a photo of Amini’s parents in a hospital in Tehran, where their daughter was lying unconscious.

The picture, which Hamidi posted on Twitter, was the first sign to the world that all was not well with Amini, who had been arrested by Iran’s morality police three days earlier for dressing inappropriately.

Eloh Mohammadi covered Amini’s funeral in his Kurdish hometown of Sakez, where the protests started. In a joint statement published by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization on Friday, Hamidi and Mohammadi were accused of being foreign agents of the CIA.

The arrests are consistent with the official narrative that Iran’s arch-enemies, the United States, Israel and other Western powers and their local agents, are behind the unrest and are determined to destabilize the country.

According to human rights organizations, at least 40 journalists have been arrested in the last six weeks, and their number is increasing.

Students and women played a prominent role in the unrest, burning their cloaks as mobs protested the fall of the Islamic Republic, which came to power in 1979.

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An official said on Sunday that the agency had no plans to back down from mandatory wearing, but would have to be “judicious” about enforcement.

Ali Khanmohammadi, the spokesman for the headquarters of the promotion of virtue and prevention of the vice of Iran, told the Khabaronline website: “Lifting the veil is against our law, and this headquarters will not back down from its position.”

“However, our actions must be rational so as not to give our enemies an excuse to use it against us.”

The overt gesture of compromise is unlikely to placate the protesters, whose demands have gone beyond a change in dress code to calls for an end to clerical rule.

In another apparent attempt to defuse the situation, the speaker of the parliament, Mohammad Baqir Qalibof, said that people have the right to call for change and that their demands will be met if they stay away from the “criminals” on the streets.

He said, using the words of the officials: “We believe that protests are not only right and a sign of progress, but we also believe that these social movements will change policies and decisions, as long as they are separated from violent, criminal and separatist people.” usually used for protestors.

Written by Michael Georgiy; Edited by Nick McPhee, Philip Fletcher and Angus McSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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