Iranian Leader Calls Protesters 'Tools' of US

Eye doctors raise alarm about injuries from rubber bullets
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 26, 2022 4:25 PM CST
Iranian Leader Calls Protesters 'Tools' of US
In this image released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with a group of Basij paramilitary force in Tehran on Saturday.   (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran's supreme leader praised paramilitary volunteers tasked with quashing dissent on Saturday in a televised address, as dozens of eye doctors warned that a rising number of demonstrators have been blinded by security forces during anti-government protests. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed members of the Basij, the volunteer paramilitary wing of the Revolutionary Guard, and reiterated unsupported claims that protesters demonstrating countrywide are "tools" of the US and its "mercenaries," the AP reports. The "Basij should not forget that the main clash is with global hegemony," Khamenei said, referring to the US.

The Basij have taken a leading role in clamping down on demonstrations that began Sept. 17, ignited by the death of a young woman while in the custody of Iran's morality police. Her death sparked months of protests over the country's mandatory headscarf but quickly morphed into one of the greatest challenges to Iran's theocracy since the chaotic years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In a letter, 140 ophthalmologists raised concerns about a rising number of patients with severe eye injuries resulting from being shot with metal pellets and rubber bullets, according to pro-reform Iranian news site Sobhema and Iran International, as well as other sites on social media. Last week, videos circulated on social media of Ghazal Ranjkesh, a law student in the southern city of Banda Abbas, who lost an eye after being shot with a metal pellet on her way home from work.

Protests continued Saturday at some universities in the capital of Tehran and other cities, according to social media. Because of the crackdown by Iranian security forces, demonstrations have become more scattered. Protesters have also called for commercial strikes. Khamenei's comments came a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met with a group of Basij members and praised their efforts to maintain security, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Iran's ferocious crackdown has drawn criticism, with at least 448 people killed and more than 18,000 arrested in the protests and the violent security force response that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations. Iran has not offered a death toll or a number of those arrested.

(More Iranian protests stories.)

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