Protests raged at Iranian universities and some cities on Saturday, as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the country’s “enemies” could try to mobilize workers after failing in more than two months of unrest that caused the to overthrow the Islamic government.
The protests, one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s religious leaders in decades, have gathered momentum, frustrating authorities who have accused Iran’s foreign enemies and their agents of orchestrating the unrest.
“Until this hour, thank God, the enemies have been defeated. But the enemies have a new trick every day and with today’s defeat they may target other classes such as workers and women,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying.
Women and university students have played a prominent role in the anti-government street demonstrations, waving and burning headscarves to denounce Iran’s strict Islamic dress code for women.
The wave of unrest erupted in September after Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in custody of the country’s vice squad after being arrested for wearing what were considered “inappropriate” clothes.
Protests spread to the vital energy sector last month, but demonstrations by workers, some dealing with demands related to wages and working conditions, were limited.
In 1979, a combination of mass protests and strikes by oil workers and bazaar traders helped bring the clergy to power in Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
On Saturday, activist news agency HRANA said sit-ins and protests with slogans like “freedom, freedom, freedom” were taking place at two dozen campuses in the capital Tehran and in major cities like Isfahan, Tabriz and Shiraz.
Kurdish human rights group Hengaw released videos allegedly showing security forces shooting at protesters in the city of Divandarreh, killing one protester. Reuters could not verify the videos.
According to HRANA, 402 protesters had been killed in the riots as of Friday, including 58 minors. About 54 members of the security forces were also killed, it said. More than 16,800 people were arrested, it said.
State media reported last month that more than 46 security forces, including police officers, had been killed. Government officials have not provided an estimate of a larger number of deaths.
Iran’s strict judiciary has sentenced five protesters to death and said it would try more than 2,000 people charged with unrest, intensifying efforts to crack down on weeks of demonstrations.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)
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