Days after United States (US) President Joe Biden reaffirmed solidarity with anti-hijab demonstrators in Iran, President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday lambasted the US for conducting a “failed policy of destabilization” targeting his nation, Associated Press reported.
“The Iranian nation has invalidated the American military option and, as they themselves have admitted, brought the policy of sanctions and maximum pressure a humiliating failure,” Raisi said, according to a transcript of his remarks accessed by AP. “Now, following America’s failure in militarization and sanctions, Washington and its allies have resorted to the failed policy of destabilization.”
Western plot to overthrow the Iranian state
President Ebrahim Raisi’s repeated comments have tried to blame the demonstrations sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the country’s morality police as a Western plot, even as school-age protesters remove their mandatory headscarves, or hijabs. They come after protests in cities across Iran on Wednesday, with videos circulating of security forces apparently firing toward demonstrators and using violence to put down the dissent.
The protests have become one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the country’s 2009 Green Movement. Raisi, a hard-line protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described them as a plot against Iran by its enemies abroad. Raisi’s remarks came Thursday as he spoke to a conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Raisi did not otherwise directly address the demonstrations, which took place across at least 19 cities on Wednesday. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Unofficial death toll crosses 200
Gathering information about the demonstrations remains difficult amid the internet restrictions and the arrests of at least 40 journalists in the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
An Oslo-based group, Iran Human Rights, estimated Wednesday that at least 201 people have been killed. This includes an estimated 90 people killed by security forces in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan amid demonstrations against a police officer accused of rape in a separate case. Iranian authorities have described the Zahedan violence as involving unnamed separatists, without providing details or evidence.
Nuclear deal talks stalled
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said America wasn’t focusing on possible negotiations with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal amid the demonstrations. Those talks collapsed in the months before Amini’s Sept. 16 death.
“Right now our focus...is on the remarkable bravery and courage that the Iranian people are exhibiting through their peaceful demonstrations,” Price said. “And our focus right now is on shining a spotlight on what they’re doing and supporting them in the ways we can.”
(With inputs from AP)