Students defy Iran protest ultimatum

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Unrest enters more dangerous phase

Weeks of protest in Iran entered a more violent phase on Sunday as students defied an ultimatum by the Revolutionary Guards and were met with tear gas, beatings and gunfire from riot police and militia, social media videos showed.

The confrontations at dozens of universities prompted a threat of a tougher crackdown in the seventh week of demonstrations since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after she was arrested by the morality police for attire deemed inappropriate.

Iranians from all walks of life have been protesting since Amini’s death.

What began as outrage over Amini’s death on Sept. 16 has evolved into one of the toughest challenges to clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution, with some protesters calling for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told protesters that Saturday would be their last day of taking to the streets, the harshest warning yet by Iranian authorities.

Nevertheless, videos on social media, unverifiable by Reuters, showed confrontations between students and riot police and Basij forces on Sunday at universities all over Iran.

One video showed a member of Basij forces firing a gun at close range at students protesting at a branch of Azad University in Tehran. Gunshots were also heard in a video shared by rights group HENGAW from protests at the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj.

Videos from universities in some other cities also showed Basij forces opening fire at students.

Across the country, security forces tried to block students inside university buildings, firing tear gas and beating protesters with sticks. The students, who appeared to be unarmed, pushed back, with some chanting “dishonoured Basij get lost” and “Death to Khamenei”.

Social media reported arrests of at least a dozen doctors, journalists and artists since Saturday.

The activist HRANA news agency said 283 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Saturday including 44 minors. Some 34 members of the security forces were also killed.

More than 14,000 people have been arrested, including 253 students, in protests in 132 cities and towns, and 122 universities, it said.

The Guards and its affiliated Basij force have crushed dissent in the past. They said on Sunday, “seditionists” were insulting them at universities and in the streets, and warned they may use more force if the anti-government unrest continued.—Reuters

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