Iran’s Revolutionary Guard promised “very serious penalties” for protestors on Wednesday, the same day it declared the “end of the conspiracy” after a week of unrest rocked the country and left 21 people dead.
“We can say that today was the end of the conspiracy in 1396,” said Revolutionary Guard Commander Mohammed Ali Jafari, referring to the year as set by the Iranian calendar.
Jafari told state TV that Iran’s enemies should know that similar plots would not work in the future, insinuating that he believed last week’s protests to be the work of foreign adversaries.
Jafari said he had dispatched forces to Hamadan, Isfahan and Lorestan to quell the “new sedition.”
Despite Jafari’s comments, and the tens of thousands who joined pro-government rallies in Tehran, independent sources reported that the anti-regime protests had spread to the countryside from the cities.
Protests turn deadly
Widespread protests against the government and the country’s weak economy began on December 28. Since then, 21 people have died and 450 arrested in clashes with police. It is the worst unrest the country has seen since the violence that erupted after the disputed 2009 presidential election.
The government crackdown and blackout of certain social media channels resulted in the protests dwindling down to several thousand according to Jafari. The number of cities hosting protests has also reportedly decreased.
In response to the wave of anti-government sentiment, tens of thousands of supporters of the country’s leader took to the streets on Wednesday, reciting chants like “Down with the USA” and cheering for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Like Jafari, Khamenei has said that he believes the protests were the work of Iran’s enemies trying to foment a government overthrow.
Despite Khamenei’s statement, democratically elected President Hassan Rohani cautioned on Monday that many of the protestors had legitimate concerns that should be addressed, such as income inequality.
es/rc (AP, dpa)