Supreme Leader calls the anti-government protests, which began after the death of Mahsa Amini, “riots”.
Tehran, Iran – Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blamed the United States and Israel for protests that have gripped the country for over two weeks, accusing them of attempting to stop Iran’s “progress”.
Khamenei branded the anti-government protests, some of the biggest the country has seen in years, as “riots” on Monday.
The 83-year-old leader had remained silent on the protests that erupted after the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, on September 16 in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
“I say explicitly that these riots and insecurities were a design by the US and the occupying and fake Zionist regime [Israel], and those who are paid by them, and some traitorous Iranians abroad helped them,” Khamenei told graduating cadets at a ceremony held at a police university in Tehran, surrounded by the chiefs of the police, army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“In the accident that happened, a young woman passed away, which also pained us, but reactions to it without investigations [taking place]… where some come to make the streets insecure, burn Qurans, take hijabs off hijabed women and burn mosques and people’s cars was not a normal and natural reaction.”
Khamenei sought to further cast the unrest as part of a foreign effort to destablise Iran, and said that another “excuse” would have been found to destabilise the country if it were not for Amini’s death.
Iran’s Supreme Leader argued that the unrest was an attempt to stop the country from the advances he claimed it had made despite harsh US sanctions imposed since 2018, when Washington unilaterally abandoned Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. “They feel that the country is progressing toward full-scale power and they can’t tolerate this.”
The US is said to be considering further sanctions on Iran in light of the ongoing protests, which have led to the deaths of dozens of people, and has eased some internet sanctions on Iran in an attempt to help Iranians circumvent government restrictions on the internet imposed since the protests began.