DUBAI, Dec 3 (Reuters) – President Ebrahim Raisi praised the Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday as a guarantor of rights and freedoms, defending the ruling system amid a crackdown on anti-government protests that the United Nations said has cost more than 300 lives.
Meanwhile, a top state security body said 200 people, including members of the security forces, had been killed in the riots, a figure significantly lower than that provided by the world body and human rights groups.
The protests, in their third month, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police enforcing strict mandatory hijab rules.
The demonstrations have turned into a popular revolt by angry Iranians from all strata of society, posing one of the boldest challenges to clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.
Meanwhile, a video surfaced on social media showing authorities demolishing the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, a climber who competed in an international topless contest in October. Rekabi had later done so unintentionally, but it was widely assumed that she had expressed her support for the protests. read more
State media quoted the head of the judiciary in the northwestern province of Zanjan on Saturday as saying the ruling to demolish the villa was issued four months ago because the family had not obtained a building permit.
Unfazed by the brutal crackdown, protesters have hurled slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and have repeatedly demanded an end to Islamic rule.
Videos on social media showed renewed protests on Saturday night in some parts of the capital Tehran, including the eastern Haft Howz area, where protesters could be heard chanting: “The murderer Khamenei must be executed.” Reuters could not immediately verify the images.
Authorities blame the revolt on foreign enemies, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“Iran has the most progressive constitution in the world” because it marries “ideals with democracy,” Raisi said in a speech to lawmakers, citing an unnamed African lawyer he said he met several years ago.
“The constitution guarantees the (existence) of the Islamic system,” he said, adding that it also “guarantees fundamental rights and legitimate freedoms.”
The Mizan judiciary news agency quoted the Interior Ministry’s state security council as saying that 200 people were killed in the recent “riots.”
Amirali Hajizadeh, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, said Monday that 300 people, including members of the security forces, had been killed in the recent unrest.
Javaid Rehman, a UN-appointed independent expert on Iran, said on Tuesday that more than 300 people had been killed in the protests, including more than 40 children.
Human rights group HRANA said 469 protesters, including 64 minors, had been killed as of Friday. He said 61 members of the government security forces had also been killed. It is believed that up to 18,210 protesters were arrested.
A prominent Baloch Sunni Muslim cleric, Molavi Abdolhamid, has I call for an end to the repression of protests through arrests and assassinations, and a referendum on changing Iran’s system of government.
“The popular protest has shown that the policies of the last 43 years have reached a dead end,” he said at the end of November.
email@example.com by William Maclean and Louise Heavens
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