DUBAI, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Protests raged in Iranian universities and some cities on Saturday as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the country’s “enemies” could try to mobilize workers after failing in more than two months to overthrow the Islamic government. unrest.
One of the boldest challenges for Iran’s church leaders in decades, the protests are gaining momentum, frustrating authorities who have blamed Iran’s foreign enemies and their agents for orchestrating the disturbances.
“Thank God the enemies have been defeated up to this hour. But the enemies have a new trick every day and with today’s defeat they can target different classes, such as workers and women,” state television quoted Khamenei as saying.
Women and university students have played a prominent role in 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 the custody of the country’s vice squad after being arrested for wearing clothes deemed “inappropriate”.
Protests spread to the vital energy sector last month, but workers’ demonstrations, partly over demands over 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 HRANA news agency said sit-down strikes and protests were taking place on two dozen campuses in the capital Tehran, and in major cities such as Isfahan, Tabriz and Shiraz with slogans such as “Freedom, freedom, freedom”.
Kurdish rights group Hengaw posted videos claiming security forces fired on protesters in the town of Divandarreh, killing one protester. Reuters was unable to verify the videos.
The official IRNA news agency said protesters damaged the home of the state-sanctioned cleric of Divandarreh and the office of the local MP, adding that two people may have been killed in the violence.
Videos posted to social media are said to show protests in a number of cities in western, northwest and central Iran, some during funerals for deceased protesters.
Protests also reached smaller communities. In Murmuri, a southwestern town of 3,500, the local governor told IRNA that about 150 protesters set fire to government buildings, banks and a post office before security forces restored order.
HRANA said 402 protesters had died in the unrest on Friday, including 58 minors. About 54 members of the security forces were also killed. More than 16,800 people have been arrested, it said.
State media said last month that more than 46 security forces, including police, had been killed. Government officials have not provided an estimate of an increased number of deaths.
On Saturday, state television showed thousands attending at least four state-sponsored funerals of three Basij members, a police colonel, a seminary student and a border guard who were killed in recent unrest.
Iran’s harsh judiciary has sentenced five protesters to death and said it will try more than 2,000 people charged with unrest, stepping up efforts to quell weeks of demonstrations.
Reporting by the Dubai newsroom. Edited by Helen Popper and Nick Zieminski
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.