The elite Revolutionary Guards unit of Iran’s military has been sent to three different provinces in an attempt to quash anti-government protests. The protests have continued for the last six days and have resulted in the deaths of at least 22 people.
The protests began last week following frustration by communities over the economic hardships being endured by the working class, particularly Iran’s youth. These protests are set against the powerful and privileged elite families of Iran and particularly target Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Even though Iranian lawmakers declared that protesters may be sentenced to death, they continued to riot. Protests resumed on Wednesday morning with hundreds protesting in the streets of the mid-west town of Malayer.
Social media showed videos by Iranian youths showing crowds screaming their desire to see their “dictator” dead. This was used similarly in chants across the country and are directly provoking Supreme Leader Khamenei.
In retaliation against the protest, government sponsored pro-regime demonstrations were conducted with thousands of attendees. These rallies were broadcast on Iranian television to show that Iranians supported the government.
Marchers waived Iranian flags and carried portraits of their leader who has been in power since 1989. They chanted stating that the blood they carried was a “gift” from their leader and that they would not abandon him.
As part of an official crackdown on the new anti-government protests the commander of the Revolutionary Guards said that the forces were dispatched to take on a “new sedition”.
The Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari outlined that his unit would be sent to the Isfahan, Lorestan and Hamadan region where the majority of the recent deaths had occurred. He proceeded to downplay the size of the anti-government movement as having no more than 15,000 members and no more than 1,500 actively protesting in each region.
The elite Revolutionary Guards were founded in the 1979 revolution that threw out the US-backed state in favour of an Islamic theocracy. The Guards played a key role in the suppression of anti-government protests in 2009 that cried against election fraud.
As opposed the regular army, the Revolutionary Guards are primarily used to preserve the Islamic theocracy against internal unrest.
The pro-government demonstrations had accused Iran’s rivals such as the USA, Britain and Israel of inciting and supporting the protests as a means to weaken the country. Many chanted for the death of what they referred to as “American mercenaries”.
These beliefs were shared by Supreme Leader Khamenei who suggested the involvement by Iran’s rivals in creating the unrest.