Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have deployed forces to three provinces to put down an eruption of anti-government unrest, their commander said, after six days of protests that have left 21 persons dead.
Thousands of Iranians took part in pro-government rallies in several cities in a state-sponsored show of force aimed at countering unrest posing the most sustained challenge to the Islamic Republic’s clerical elite in almost a decade.
State television broadcast live pictures of rallies in the southwestern cities of Kermanshah and Ilam and in the northern city of Gorgan, where marchers waved Iranian flags and pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But, in a sign of official concern about the resilience of the protests, the Revolutionary Guards commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he had dispatched forces to Isfahan, Lorestan and Hamadan provinces to tackle “the new sedition”.
Most of the casualties among protesters have occurred in those regions. The Revolutionary Guards, the sword and shield of Iran’s Shia theocracy, were instrumental in suppressing the 2009 uprising, killing dozens of protesters then.
Marchers chanted, “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader Khamenei,” and, “We will not leave our leader alone.” They accused the US, Israel and Britain of inciting protests, shouting “the seditionist rioters should be executed!” The protests began last week out of frustration over economic hardship among the youth and working class.