Iranian President signals heavy crackdown on protests
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that Iran should deal decisively with the protesters who condemn the killing of Mahsa Amini, as the death toll during the week-long protests reached 35.
The president, in a condolence call to the family of a security agent allegedly stabbed to death by protesters, "stressed the necessity to distinguish between protest and disturbing public order and security, and called the events ... a riot," state media reported.
22-year-old Mahsa Amini quickly became a symbol of defiance against oppression in Iran following her death in custody after she was arrested by the "morality police" because her hair was showing under her hijab. Authorities claimed she died from underlying health reasons, but her family and many Iranians believe she died as a result of police violence.
The strong warning by the president followed a statement from the army which also vowed to confront "the enemies" behind the unrest, reminding the crackdown that crushed protests in 2009 over the hike in gas prices when over 1500 protestors were killed.
On Friday, in state-organised rallies in several Iranian cities to counter nationwide anti-government unrest, marchers called for the execution of "rioters."
The crowds condemned the anti-government protesters as "Israel's soldiers."
Iran's police chief Hossein Ashtari also used tough language in an attempt to stop the protests.
"The people's security is our red line," he told state TV. "Those involved in sabotage and creating insecurity based on directives from outside the country should know that they will be strongly dealt with."