Breaking silence, Iran’s Khamenei blames Israel and U.S. for protests
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei without evidence on Monday blamed the U.S. and Israel for a wave of protests that has rocked the country.
The big picture: It was the first time Khamenei has publicly weighed in on the protests, which began last month after the death of a woman in police custody.
- Mahsa Amini, 22, died after being arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating a religious law requiring women to wear a headscarf.
- Police claimed Amini was not mistreated and that she died of a heart attack. Her father, Amjad Amini, told BBC Persian that she had no preexisting conditions, and has blamed Iranian authorities.
- Dozens of protesters have died and hundreds have been arrested during the demonstrations — some of the biggest Iran has seen in years. Authorities have restricted the internet in an effort to crack down on the unrest.
What he's saying: “I say frankly that these incidents were designed by America, the fake Zionist regime, those who are on their payroll and some traitorous Iranians abroad who helped them. Their main problem is with a strong and independent Iran and the progress of the country," Khamenei said in a speech Monday.
- He said Amini's death “broke our hearts,” but the reaction of the protesters before the investigation was completed was not normal.
- “They made the streets unsafe, burned Qurans, removed hijab from veiled women's heads, set fire to mosques and people's cars," Khamenei said.
- He defended the Iranian police and the Basij paramilitary militia for cracking down on the protests. “If it wasn't for this young girl, they would have created another excuse to create insecurity and riots in the country," Khamenei added, referring to the U.S. and Israel.
- He said that the fact the U.S. provided internet services to the demonstrators so that they can communicate easily is proof that “there is a foreign hand behind these events." He was referring to the U.S. move to ease some sanctions to allow tech companies to expand internet access in the country.