In his first remarks on the unrest that has engulfed the nation since September 17, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed that rallies over the death of a woman in police custody were organized and not staged by “ordinary Iranians.”
In comments reported by state media, Khamenei said the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini “deeply broke my heart,” calling it a “bitter incident.”
But he said “some people had caused insecurity in the streets,” saying there had been planned “riots.”
“This rioting was planned,” he told a cadre of police students in Tehran. “I say clearly that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”
He added of the protests: “Such actions are not normal, are unnatural.”
He strongly backed the security forces, stating that they had been treated unfairly during the protests.
According to state media and rights organizations, earlier this week, a major Tehran institution saw clashes between Iranian students and security personnel as a result of the turmoil brought on by Mahsa Amini’s passing.
The 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian Amini was declared dead on September 16, just days after she was arrested for allegedly breaking the law requiring women to dress modestly and wear hijabs, which set off Iran’s largest wave of unrest in almost three years.
Violence overnight at Sharif University of Technology, when riot police reportedly engaged hundreds of students while brandishing non-lethal steel pellet-firing weapons and employing tear gas and paintball, raised concerns.
Students screamed “Woman, life, liberty” and “students prefer death to humiliation,” according to the Iranian Mehr News Agency, which added that the nation’s science minister eventually arrived to speak to the students in an effort to defuse the situation.
A video purportedly depicting Iranian police on motorcycles pursuing students who were running in an underground parking garage and removing captives with their heads wrapped in black fabric bags was shared online by the Oslo-based organization Iran Human Rights.
In other videos, which AFP has not independently verified, gunfire and screams can be heard as large groups of people rush through a street at night.
“Security forces have attacked Sharif University in Tehran tonight. Shooting can be heard,” IHR said in a Twitter message Sunday.
In another video clip, a crowd of people can be heard chanting: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!” IHR said the footage was taken at Shariati metro station in the capital Tehran on Sunday.
The New York-based group Centre for Human Rights in Iran said it was “extremely concerned by videos coming out of Sharif University and Tehran today showing violent repression of protests + detainees being hauled away with their heads completely covered in fabric.”
Mehr News Agency said that “Sharif University of Technology announced that due to recent events and the need to protect students … all classes will be held virtually from Monday.”
Numerous protestors have died and more than a thousand have been detained since the turmoil began on September 16. Some of those murdered include members of the security forces.