Iran’s Raisi warns universities of unrest

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has warned universities of the dangers of foreign influence as anti-regime protests escalated and security forces and protesters clashed in Tehran.

Universities have become a focus of protests that have swept the country since the death in custody in mid-September of Mahsa Amini, a woman arrested by morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code.

“The enemy thought they could pursue their desires in universities without knowing that our students and professors are aware of it, and would not allow the enemy’s wishful thinking to materialize,” Raisi told students at Alzahra University on Saturday , which was reserved for women only.

As he spoke, some students on campus chanted slogans criticizing the president, according to videos posted to social media.

Protests erupted across Tehran as riot police and protesters clashed. “Death to the dictator,” chanted people in western Tehran near Sharif University.

For the first time since the protests began, vendors in the Grand Bazaar in downtown Tehran closed their shops to avoid damage to their property. The demonstrators had urged the shopkeepers to join them by going on strike.

“This was perhaps one of the most violent days in the bazaar since the revolution 43 years ago,” said a trader. “I saw some women confronting the police, who fired bird shots and tear gas, but the women showed no fear.”

The bazaar holds symbolic importance for Iranians as their support of the clergy was a crucial factor in the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Shopkeepers in the Tajrian bazaar in northern Tehran also closed after clashes there.

A young woman who shopped earlier in the Grand Bazaar on Saturday said: “I got the feeling that the protesters are not afraid of anything. People’s anger seems greater than their fears. It felt like I saw those scenes of the revolution.”

Videos on social media showed protests and clashes with security forces in Northwest Kurdistan province as shops were closed in Sanandaj, the province’s capital, and other cities including Saqqez, Amini’s hometown.

Iranian authorities announced on Friday that their investigations revealed that 22-year-old Amini was not hit while in detention. A statement by the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization did not clarify the cause of death. Amini’s family have denied the official report, insisting she was beaten by the vice squad.

The country’s leadership believes foreign enemies, particularly the US and Israel, have fueled the unrest. Iran has announced that the opposition’s scenario is to keep the momentum going and stoke public anger by creating martyrs.

Several young women have died since the protests broke out.

According to authorities, 17-year-old Nika Shakarami died after falling from a roof. Her mother says she was killed during the protests. “They took away our Nika and brought us her body,” chanted students at the Amir Kabir University of Technology on Saturday.

The death of 16-year-old Sarina Esmaeilzadeh also raised suspicions. Officials and her mother say she died by suicide. However, protesters say she was killed by security forces. Iran’s Raisi warns universities of unrest

Adam Bradshaw

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