Iranian leaders are trying to link the ongoing wave of anti-government protests to this week’s deadly gun attack on a Shia shrine in the southern city of Shiraz.
In a speech on Thursday, October 27, President Ibrahim Raisi alleged that the popular demonstrations against the Iranian regime allowed for the shooting at the Shahcheragh Shrine the previous day, without providing evidence linking them.
“The enemy wants the riots to pave the way for terrorist attacks. The enemy is always the enemy,” Raisi said.
“They go to a holy shrine of a son of the prophet, our third-most important shrine, his majesty Shah Cheragh, and open fire at innocent worshipers.”
The protest rallies were sparked by the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police. They have grown to become the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical regime since the 2009 protest movement.
The unrest triggered a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces that has killed at least 234 people, including 29 children, according to one human rights organization. Several thousand people have been arrested.
On October 26, as thousands of protesters across Iran marked the 40th day since Amini’s death, official media reported a "terrorist attack" at the Shahcheragh Shrine. At least 15 people were reported killed and 40 others injured. The extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the assault.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the attack a “plot by the enemies,” according to official media.
“We all have duties to deal a blow to the warmongering enemy and its treacherous and foolish cohorts,” the 83-year-old leader said, adding: “All our people ranging from the security bodies and the judiciary body and activists in the field of media must be united against the wave that disregards and disrespects people’s lives, their security and their sacred things.”
In his first remark since the unrest began, former President Mohammad Khatami warned that “violence cannot be answered with violence.”
Khatami’s name and image have been banned in Iranian media since 2015 over his reformist political views.
“If [the people] see that the conditions of this life are not provided [by the government], they have the right to criticize and even protest,” Khatami said.
The protests continued across cities across Iran on Thursday, including in the northwestern city of Mahabad, where video clips obtained by IranWire show demonstrators gathered at local government offices. Shots can be heard in the background while a building was ablaze.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency later said that "rioters" damaged public property, breaking the windows of some banks and a tax administration office.
The protests followed the funeral of a man who died the previous night from gunshot wounds.