Iran’s supreme leader breaks silence on Amini protests, blames US following Sunday clash

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei broke his silence Monday on the protests ignited by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, saying he was “deeply heartbroken” by her death while blaming America for the riots themselves.

“This rioting was planned,” Khamenei said while speaking with police students in Tehran. “These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”

Khamenei also condemned protesters for ripping off their hijabs and setting mosques, banks and police cars on fire. The leader proceeded to say the actions “are not normal, that are unnatural,” while stating that “those who foment unrest to sabotage the Islamic Republic deserve harsh prosecution and punishment.”

Iran began cracking down on universities and students nationwide, with hundreds of young people and students arrested Monday at the country’s top technology university following an hours-long standoff with police.

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Sharif University of Technology in Tehran also announced that only doctoral students would be allowed on campus following a Sunday clash between anti-government protesters and pro-establishment students. The new policy would be implemented until further notice.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, listens to the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Gen.  Mohammad Hossein Bagheri at a graduation ceremony for a group of armed forces cadets at the police academy in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Oct.  3, 2022. Khamenei responded publicly on Monday to the biggest protests in Iran in years, breaking weeks of silence to condemn what he called

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, listens to the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri at a graduation ceremony for a group of armed forces cadets at the police academy in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Khamenei responded publicly on Monday to the biggest protests in Iran in years, breaking weeks of silence to condemn what he called “rioting” and accuse the US and Israel of planning the protests.
(Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Anonymous witnesses told the Associated Press that the police had detained hundreds of students on campus during the protests while also firing tear gas to disband the demonstrations. Plainclothes officers are said to have surrounded the university campus as protests went on well into the night, ultimately detaining at least 300 students, according to the university’s student association.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, reviews a group of armed forces cadets during their graduation ceremony accompanied by commanders of the armed forces, at the police academy in Tehran , Iran, Monday, Oct.  3, 2022.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, reviews a group of armed forces cadets during their graduation ceremony accompanied by commanders of the armed forces, at the police academy in Tehran , Iran, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
(Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

The clash between the two entities sparked backlash on Monday.

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The nationwide unrest following Amini’s death while in police custody is going on its third week despite governmental efforts to shut them down. Amini had been arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code, in line with the recent trend for Iranian women to protest the country’s leadership.

In this Sept.  19, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, a police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of a young woman who had been detained for violating the country's conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran.

In this Sept. 19, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, a police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of a young woman who had been detained for violating the country’s conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran.
(AP Photo, File)

Witnesses say a majority of those arrested seem to be under the age of 25. The exact number of arrests remains unknown; however, local officials are currently reporting at least 1,500 arrests.

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Iran’s state television recently reported the death toll could be as high as 41. Right groups along with London-based Amnesty International are reporting a higher count, with 52 victims in total.

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The protests have garnered international support, with many heading to Iranian embassies in their individual countries in solidarity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.