The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has warned protesters that Saturday will be their last day on the streets, in a sign that security forces may step up their crackdown on the unrest sweeping the country.
Iran has been gripped by protests since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in moral police custody last month, posing one of the boldest challenges to clerical leaders since the 1979 revolution.
“Don’t go out on the street! Today is the last day of unrest,” said Guard commander Hossein Salami in one of the strongest terms used in the crisis, which Iran’s clerical leadership blames on its external enemies, including Israel and the United States.
“This sinister plan is a plan created … in the White House and the Zionist regime,” Salami said.
The feared Revolutionary Guards, which report directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have not been deployed since the demonstrations began on September 16. They are an elite force with a track record of crushing dissent.
Human rights groups said at least 250 protesters were killed and thousands arrested across Iran during the protests, which turned into a popular uprising by angry Iranians from all walks of life.
On Friday, videos on social media showed protesters calling for the death of Khamenei and the Basij militia, which played a prominent role in efforts to quell the demonstrations.
The Intelligence Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence branch accused spy agencies from the United States, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia of orchestrating the riots to destabilize the Islamic Republic.
Salami, who was speaking at a funeral for victims killed in an attack this week claimed by Islamic State, repeated that message in a direct address to the protesters.
“Don’t sell your honor to America and slap the security forces that protect you in the face,” he said.