The Supreme Leader of Iran has commended Iran’s Basij paramilitary force for its participation in the fatal crackdown on anti-regime protestors.
At a meeting with Basij personnel in Tehran on Saturday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the popular protest movement as “rioters” and “thugs” sponsored by foreign powers and thanked “innocent” Basij warriors for safeguarding the people.
The Basij is a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that has been deployed to the streets as protests have grown in intensity since September.
The murder of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman in the custody of Iran’s morality police, started the protest movement.
According to Amnesty International, the Basij have been instructed to “mercilessly assault” demonstrators.
“When confronted with the adversary on the battlefield, the Basij has always demonstrated courage, not fear of the enemy,” the Supreme Leader stated on Saturday.
“As you witnessed in recent events, our innocent and suffering Basijis became the objects of oppression so that the nation would not become the target of riots, thugs, and those on the [enemy’s] payroll, whether wittingly or unintentionally.” “They sacrificed themselves to liberate others,” Khamenei stated.
Khamenei’s remarks came a day after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned that Iran is in a “full-fledged human rights crisis” as a result of the crackdown on anti-regime dissidents.
During a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, Turk urged for “independent, impartial, and transparent investigative mechanisms” into human rights breaches in Iran.
He told the UN Security Council’s 47 members in Geneva that security personnel had used lethal force against unarmed protestors and bystanders who posed “no threat.”
According to Turk, around 14,000 individuals, including children, have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations. He stated that at least 21 of them are now facing the death penalty, and six have already been sentenced to death.
According to the semi-official Tasnim News Agency, two well-known Iranian actors, Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi, were detained on different occasions for publicly supporting the countrywide rallies.
The Islamic Republic has been rocked by a wave of anti-government protests precipitated by Amini’s murder, supposedly for not properly wearing her headscarf.
Authorities have already launched a lethal crackdown on protesters, with claims of forced detentions and physical abuse directed towards the country’s Kurdish minority community. Covert testimony showed sexual assault against protestors, including minors, in Iran’s detention camps from the beginning of the uprising, according to a recent CNN investigation.
According to Turk, the unprecedented nationwide rebellion has seized more than 150 towns and 140 institutions across Iran’s 31 provinces.
The harsh response of Iran’s security forces to protesters has strained diplomatic ties between Tehran and Western leaders.
The White House slapped new penalties on three officials in Iran’s Kurdish region on Wednesday, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed “grave worry that Iranian authorities are reportedly intensifying violence against protestors.”
On Thursday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani told Indian network NDTV that foreign forces were interfering in Iranian internal issues and generating “fallacious narratives.”