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Who is the dictator? asks Iran’s Raisi as protests continue

Tehran, Iran – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has again denounced the United States amid ongoing anti-government protests in his country.

The president visited the University of Tehran on Wednesday morning, where he delivered a speech to mark Student’s Day, reiterating that there was a distinction between protests and “riots,” a word authorities regularly use to describe unrest in the country. , which have lasted about three months.

“The Americans seek destruction and they want a destroyed Iran instead of a strong Iran,” he said. “They want to become here in Syria and Afghanistan, but they have made a mistake in their calculations and the educated Iranian men and women will not allow it.”

Raisi referred to a visit he made last week to the protest-heavy province of Kurdistan, where cameras caught him being greeted by a local shop owner at a market with chocolates.

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Subsequently, a video circulated widely on social media showing the man apologizing for greeting the president.

“You saw a man who offered me chocolates. The things they did to that poor thing! Raisi said.

“You talk about the issue of the dictatorship. Who is the dictator? The one that imposes so many sanctions against this country,” he added, referring to the US, which has imposed tough sanctions since 2018 after pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers.

The president’s visit came on the third and final day of nationwide protests and strikes that were called anonymously online.

Videos of sporadic protests have spilled out of Tehran and several other cities in recent days amid persistent internet restrictions.

Raisi said Wednesday that the restrictions are a response to “disturbances and insecurity created by enemies” and that changes will be made when “safe conditions” are restored.

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Meanwhile, many videos have been posted online of stores being closed in cities across the country, which have been countered by many videos posted by state-affiliated media outlets showing stores open.

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Authorities have repeatedly claimed that “anti-revolutionary” elements force merchants to close their businesses with threats of physical violence. The president also made this claim during his college speech.

Authorities closed many shops, including several owned by soccer legend Ali Daei, for joining the strikes.

Other senior officials, including Judicial Chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, visited several universities on Tuesday.

Zakani’s visit to Sharif University of Technology in Tehran was perhaps the most controversial and contentious, with students harshly criticizing him and calling him “corrupt”.

When a student said “we want to make a revolution but you won’t let us”, Zakani mockingly replied, “that’s child’s play, when you want to talk about revolution rub your throat well so it doesn’t stay there”. .

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The country’s protests began shortly after the death on September 16 of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman who was arrested by the morality police for allegedly failing to comply with Iran’s mandatory dress code.

A senior judicial official said last week that the morality police had been suspended, but there has been no confirmation from law enforcement authorities or any indication that laws requiring mandatory hijab will be changed.

Iran has said 200 people have been killed during the unrest, lower than the more than 400 cited by several foreign-based rights organizations, which say Iranian security forces have killed protesters.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Tuesday during a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina that “police in Iran have not shot anyone and no one has been killed as a result of shooting or clashes with police or security forces.” .

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However, the sister of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, on Wednesday condemned the crackdown on protesters, according to a letter published by her son.

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Badri Hosseini Khamenei also said the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards should “lay down their arms… and join the people.”

“I think it is now appropriate to declare that I oppose my brother’s actions and express my solidarity with all the mothers who mourn the crimes of the Islamic Republic, since the time of [former Supreme Leader Ruhollah] Khomeini to the current era of Ali Khamenei’s despotic caliphate,” Badri Khamenei, who still lives in Iran, said in the letter posted on the Twitter account of his France-based son.

‘Dictated by the CIA’

In addition to the US, senior Iranian officials continue to accuse other Western countries of being behind the unrest in Iran.

In an interview with state-run IRNA published on Wednesday, intelligence minister Esmaeil Khatib had only harsh words for European leaders.

On French President Emmanuel Macron, Khatib said that “it is no longer necessary for the president of the United States to give him instructions, because a corrupt CIA low-level intelligence source dictates what he must say and the positions he must take.” .

He also criticized German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for his comments in support of the protests and against the Islamic republic, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for tweeting about a false claim that Iran could imminently execute 15,000 people arrested during the protests.

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While the 15,000 figure was false, Amnesty International warned earlier this month that at least 28 people could be executed in Iran in connection with the protests, saying that “the authorities use the death penalty as a tool of political repression to put end to the popular uprising”.

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On Tuesday, five people were sentenced to death and 11 others, including three minors, received long prison terms for allegedly killing a member of the Basij paramilitary force during riots in the city of Karaj last month.

Their sentences are preliminary and can be appealed, the judiciary said. However, judicial chief Mohseni-Ejei had said earlier this week that “some” of the previous death sentences imposed for “corruption on Earth” and “waging war against God” in connection with the protests have been upheld. by the Supreme Court and “will take place soon.”

Iran executed four people on Sunday and sentenced three others to prison on charges of working with Israeli intelligence.

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