ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An official from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) told an affiliated media outlet on Saturday that the military had arrested the alleged leaders of recent nationwide protests following a brutal crackdown by security forces that local rights groups have said caused the deaths of close to 250 demonstrators.
“The Anonymous Soldiers of Imam Zaman or Sepah [IRGC] were able to arrest the leaders and main figures in the unrest,” IRGC spokesperson Ramazan Sharif told the Tasnim media outlet. He claimed that “separatist” groups were behind the protests, naming both the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and also the Pahlavi family, which ruled the country for over 70 years before being toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Protests began on Nov. 15 after Tehran passed a new regulation on subsidized gasoline, effectively tripling its price. Although limited at the very start, demonstrations quickly spread to dozens of other parts of the country, including multiple cities in Kurdish-majority western provinces.
The IRGC mobilized hundreds of thousands of its Basij paramilitaries and other security forces to put down the demonstrations.
According to a statement released on Saturday by Iran Human Rights Monitor, troops killed 251 protesters, wounded close to 3,700, and made over 7,000 arrests.
Kurdish rights watchdog Hengaw reported on the same day that there had been at least 48 deaths and 1,000 arrests in the provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Ilam, and West Azerbaijan. The group previously said that some wounded protesters had been avoiding hospitals for fear of capture.
So far, Tehran has confirmed 1,000 arrests in total. Judicial spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili told Tasnim on Friday that the IRGC had detained “approximately 100 leaders, heads, and main figures of the recent unrest… in various parts of the country.”
That same day, Mohsen Rezaee, Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, claimed, “The security agencies will soon release new information about the leaders of the recent unrest and their relationship with entities outside the country.”
On Saturday, Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri threatened regional powers, saying, “They will not have an easy life,” if it was found they had “intervened” to create and fuel the protests, according to Fars news.
After a near week-long shutdown of access to the internet, authorities have started to roll back limitations that almost completely cut off protesters’ direct line of communication with the outside world. As they did, photographs and videos began to emerge on social media showing seemingly lifeless bodies lying in pools of blood on the street, similar to many being circulated in neighboring Iraq since demonstrations there began in early October.
Editing by John J. Catherine