Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warn as woman’s death sparks protests

The powerful Revolutionary Guards of Iran called on the judiciary to arrest “those who spread false news and rumors” on Thursday, ostensibly to defuse widespread protests over the death of a young woman in police custody.

Protesters in Tehran and several other Iranian towns destroyed police stations and vehicles on Thursday, as unrest sparked by the death of a woman arrested by the Islamic Republic’s morality police escalated for a sixth day, with reports of attacks on security forces.

The 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died last week after being arrested by Tehran’s morality police for wearing “inappropriate clothes.” During detention, she lapsed into a coma. The authorities have stated that they will investigate the cause of death.

In a statement, the Guards extended their condolences to Amini’s family and relatives.

“We have asked the judiciary to identify individuals who propagate false news and rumors on social media and the street, endangering the psychological safety of society, and to deal with them forcefully,” the Guards, who have in the past suppressed rallies, stated.

According to Iranian media, Friday protests in support of the regime are planned.

In an editorial, the influential conservative Kayhan newspaper stated, “The will of the Iranian people is to show no mercy to criminals.”

The US Treasury announced penalties against Iran’s morality police on Thursday, accusing them of brutality against Iranian women and violations of the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters.

The Treasury also said that penalties had been imposed on the chiefs of the Iranian army’s ground forces and morality police, as well as on Iran’s intelligence minister. It stated that the morality police were responsible for Amini’s death.

The death of Amini sparked the worst protests in Iran since 2019 due to widespread public outrage. Most demonstrations have occurred in Iran’s Kurdish-populated northern provinces, but they have moved to the nation’s capital and at least 50 other cities, with police deploying force to disperse demonstrators.

Internet monitoring company Netblocks posted on Twitter that a new mobile internet outage was detected in the country, indicating that officials worry the protests may grow.

Experts from the United Nations, including Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the status of human rights defenders, sought accountability for Amini’s death.

“[Amini] is yet another victim of Iran’s ongoing persecution and systematic discrimination against women, as well as the enforcement of discriminatory dress norms that deny women physical autonomy and the freedoms of thought, expression, and belief,” the experts said in a statement.

According to two semi-official Iranian news sources, a member of the Iranian pro-government paramilitary organization Basij was fatally stabbed in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The Tasnim and Fars news agencies reported the stabbing over Telegram on Thursday, as neither of their websites was operational. No formal confirmation of the death was available.

Tasnim also reported that another member of the Basij was shot and killed by “rioters and gangs” in the city of Qazvin.

Nour news, a media source linked with a top security organization, published a video of an army official confirming the death of a soldier during the disturbance, raising the total number of security force members reported killed during the unrest to five.

An official from Mazandaran reported that 76 members of the security forces were hurt in the province due to the unrest, while the police commander of Kurdistan said that more than 100 members of the security forces were injured.

A video shared on the Twitter account 1500tasvir, which focuses on Iran protests and has approximately 100,000 followers, showed protestors in the northeast chanting, “We will die, we will die, but we’ll get Iran back” outside a police station that was set on fire. Reuters could not verify the clip.

As the disturbance moved from Amini’s native province of Kurdistan to the capital Tehran, a second police station was torched.

Iran’s leaders fear a resurgence of the deadliest protests in Islamic Republic history, which occurred in 2019 in response to fuel price hikes. Then, according to Reuters, 1,500 people were slain. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was also the target of protesters’ rage.

A mob in Tehran was heard yelling, “Mojtaba, may you die and not become Supreme Leader,” about Khamenei’s son, who some say could follow his father at the top of Iran’s political establishment.

According to unverified reports from the Kurdish rights group Hengaw, three protestors were murdered by security forces on Wednesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to ten.

Officials have denied that security personnel has murdered protestors, speculating that armed rebels may have been responsible.

According to statements from Hengaw, villagers, and the internet shutdown observatory NetBlocks, officials restricted internet access as protests showed no indication of abating.

The death of Amini has sparked outrage in Iran on issues such as the Islamic Republic’s freedoms and economy, which is reeling from sanctions.

Women have played a vital role in the protests, waving and burning their veils and cutting their hair in public, among other actions.

Crowds armed with batons and rocks attacked two members of the security forces on a motorcycle in northern Iran, according to a video that Reuters could not verify independently.