Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei breaks his silence on the country’s protests

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei breaks his silence on the country’s protests
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reviews armed forces during a graduation ceremony for armed Forces Officers’ Universities at the police academy in Tehran, Iran October 3, 2022. Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

A couple of weeks ago, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody after she was taken in by the “morality police” for allegedly not wearing her hijab correctly. Her death has stirred up mass protests and demonstrations throughout Iran and international outrage. Recently, Amnesty International reported that leaked documents revealed that Iran’s military told commanders everywhere to “severely confront” protesters they encountered. But, until now, Iran’s supreme leader hasn’t made any public statements about the country’s unrest.

Yesterday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei finally publicly spoke about Mahsa Amini’s death and the following protests. While Khamenei did say he was saddened by Amini’s death, he also pushed the blame onto Iran’s enemies for some reason. In fact, he accused the US and Israel of planning and provoking the protests. He also condemned protesters who ripped off their hijabs and set fire to mosques, banks and police cars, saying they deserve “harsh prosecution and punishment.”

Key comments:

FILE PHOTO: A police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 19, 2022. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS//File Photo

“This rioting was planned,” Khamenei said. “These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”

A protester from Esfahan told Amnesty International: “I have seen protesters beaten. The night before, my friends recounted how they saw one woman was yanked from her hair along the ground. Her clothes were coming off her body and the security forces kept pulling her by the hair …”

“The (young protesters) have learned the strategy from video games and play to win. There is no such thing as defeat for them,” explained a university teacher in Tehran, Shahindokht Kharazmi, to the pro-reform Etemad newspaper.

“Don’t call it a protest, it’s a revolution now,” shouted student protesters at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran as women set their hijabs on fire.