Home / News / World /  Iran's supreme leader Khamenei says hijab protests, riots were 'planned'

In his first comments on unrest that has swept Iran since 17 September, the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today said that protests over the death of a woman in police custody were planned and not staged by "ordinary Iranians".

In comments reported by state media, Khamenei said the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini "deeply broke my heart", calling it a "bitter incident".

But he said "some people had caused insecurity in the streets", saying there had been planned "riots".

He expressed strong backing for the security forces, saying they had faced injustice during the protests.

Mahsa Amini protest

Kurdish Iranian Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on September 16, days after the notorious morality police detained her for allegedly breaching rules forcing women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.

Outrage over her death has sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock the Islamic republic in almost three years, as well as global solidarity rallies that saw people take to the streets in more than 150 cities at the weekend, with many symbolically cutting off their hair.

Concern grew over the latest violence at Tehran's prestigious Sharif University of Technology where, local media reported, riot police confronted hundreds of students, with officers using tear gas and paintball guns and carrying non-lethal steel pellet guns.

"Woman, life, liberty," students shouted, as well as "students prefer death to humiliation", Mehr news agency reported, adding that Iran's science minister, Mohammad Ali Zolfigol, came to speak to the students in a bid to calm the situation.

As protests stretch into a third week, with unrest also reported at the University of Isfahan and elsewhere, ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday said that the "enemies" of Iran had "failed in their conspiracy".

Iran has accused outside forces of stoking the protests, especially the United States and its allies, and last week said nine foreign nationals -- including from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland -- had been arrested.

"Hard to bear what is happening at #SharifUniversity in #Iran," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted on Monday. "The courage of the Iranians is incredible. And the regime's brute force is an expression of sheer fear of the power of education and freedom."

At least 92 protesters have been killed so far in the Mahsa Amini rallies, said Iran Human Rights , which has been working to assess the death toll despite internet outages and blocks on WhatsApp, Instagram and other online services.

London-based Amnesty International said earlier it had confirmed 53 deaths, after Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said last week that "around 60" people had died.

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