In his first comments about the protests, Khamenei blamed Israel and the US.
The protests against the government that began after Mahsa Amini’s death are called “riots” by the supreme leader.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, says that the United States and Israel are behind the protests that have been going on for more than two weeks. He says that these countries are trying to stop Iran’s “progress.”
Khamenei called the protests against the government, which were some of the largest the country has seen in years, “riots” on Monday.
The 83-year-old leader had been quiet about the protests, which started after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died last month while in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
Khamenei told graduating cadets at a police university in Tehran, “I say clearly that these riots and insecurity were planned by the US and the occupying, fake Zionist regime [Israel] and those who work for them, and some traitorous Iranians abroad helped them.”
“A young woman died in the accident, which hurt us too, but reactions to her death before investigations are done… When people come to make the streets unsafe, burn Qurans, take hijabs off women, burn mosques and people’s cars, that’s not a normal, natural reaction,” Khamenei said while surrounded by the heads of the police, army, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Khamenei tried to show that the unrest was part of a foreign plot to make Iran unstable. He said that if Amini hadn’t died, another “excuse” would have been found to make Iran unstable.
Iran’s supreme leader said that the unrest was an attempt to stop the country from making progress, which he said it had done despite the harsh US sanctions that have been in place since 2018, when the US left a 2015 nuclear deal with the rest of the world.
Khamenei said, “They think the country is moving toward full-scale power, and they can’t stand it.”
People say that the US is thinking about putting more sanctions on Iran because of the protests, which have killed dozens of people. It has eased some of the restrictions on Iran’s internet in order to help Iranians get around the restrictions that their government has put in place since the protests started.
In his speech, Khamenei mentioned that some Kurdish and Baluch people in Iran were upset, but he said that Iran would not be split up along ethnic lines.
Khamenei said, “I have lived with Baluchis, and I know that they are very loyal to the Islamic Republic.” “The ethnic Kurds are also one of the most advanced groups in Iran. They love their country, Islam, and the establishment.”
Since more than a week ago, the IRGC has been constantly attacking positions where it says “terrorist” groups are based in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, northwest of Iran. The government has tried to make it seem like the protests are about secession.
At least 13 people were killed on September 28 when the IRGC attacked northern Iraq with missiles and drones.
Last week, at least 20 people were killed in a shootout in the city of Zahedan, which is in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan.
Authorities said that the firefight started after a “terrorist” secessionist group attacked and killed several IRGC and Basij members.
Several female protesters have been caught on camera cutting their hair or setting fire to their hijabs. This has made the hijabs one of the main points of the protests.
Even so, Khamenei said that the hijab is not the most important thing.
“Many people who don’t wear the full hijab are serious supporters of the Islamic Republic and take part in different events. “The issue is about Islamic Iran’s independence, strength, and power,” the supreme leader said.
Khamenei said that many of the protesters were misguided and that they could be made to see that they had made a “mistake” by “punishing” them, but he didn’t say how.
Khamenei also paid attention to comments made by famous athletes and artists who supported the protests. The Iranian supreme leader said that those who had spoken out were only a small part of Iran’s sports and art communities.
Last week, at least two football players and a musician who said they were in favor of the protests were arrested.
Local media said on Monday that the head coach and a number of players from Persepolis FC, one of Iran’s biggest football clubs, were “called to a security entity” to talk about their online activity related to the protests.