Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi condemned Wednesday the “chaos” sparked by a wave of women-led protests over the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the Islamic republic’s morality police.
“Those who took part in the riots must be dealt with decisively, this is the demand of the people,” said Raisi in a televised interview.
“The enemy has targeted national unity and wants to pit people against each other,” added the ultraconservative president, accusing Iran’s archfoe the United States of stoking the unrest.
Raisi said the nation had felt “gri and sorrow” over her death, and that forensics and judiciary experts soon present a final report, but would also warn that “protests are different to riots”.
Their actions have been matched in solidarity protests worldwide, with British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who spent six years in jail in Iran, cutting her hair in a video shared on the BBC Persian service.
An Iraq-based cousin of Amini, who is a member of a Kurdish nationalist group, charged that she died after a “violent blow to the head” and that one officer had vowed to “instil the rules in her and teach her how to wear the hijab and how to dress”.
– ‘Cowardly attacks’ –
In a major escalation, Iran on Wednesday launched cross-border missile and drone strikes that killed 13 people in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, after accusing Kurdish armed groups based there of fueling the unrest.
The United States condemned the “brazen attacks” and Britain said Iraq’s “indiscriminate bombardment” demonstrates “a repeated pattern of Iranian destabilizing activity in the region”.
The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, one of the groups targeted, charged that “these cowardly attacks are occurring at a time when the terrorist regime of Iran is unable to crack down on ongoing protests inside and silence the Kurdish and Iranian peoples’ civil resistance” .
The Iranian government — its economy already hit by sanctions over its nuclear program — has sought to play down the crisis.
“There is not going to be regime change in Iran. Don’t play to the emotions of the Iranian people,” he told National Public Radio in New York, also accusing “outside elements” of stirring up violence.
Iran’s response has drawn concern from the United Nations and condemnation from the around the world, with Germany and Spain summoning the Iranian ambassadors and the United States and Canada announcing new sanctions.
Reza Pahlavi, whose father was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, urged greater preparation for a future Iranian system that is secular and democratic.
Originally published as Iran’s Raisi condemns ‘chaos’ of protests after Mahsa Amini’s death