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Iran's President Tries to Assuage Anger10/04 06:09

   Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday appealed for national unity and 
tried to allay anger against the country's rulers, even as the anti-government 
protests that have engulfed the country for weeks continued to spread to 
universities and high schools.

   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on 
Tuesday appealed for national unity and tried to allay anger against the 
country's rulers, even as the anti-government protests that have engulfed the 
country for weeks continued to spread to universities and high schools.

   Raisi acknowledged that the Islamic Republic had "weaknesses and 
shortcomings," but repeated the official line that the unrest sparked last 
month by the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the country's 
morality police was nothing short of a plot by Iran's enemies.

   "Today the country's determination is aimed at cooperation to reduce 
people's problems," he told a parliament session. "Unity and national integrity 
are necessities that render our enemy hopeless."

   His claims echoed those of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who 
blamed the United States and Israel, the country's adversaries, for inciting 
the unrest in his first remarks on the nationwide protests on Monday. It's a 
familiar tactic for Iran's leaders, who have remained mistrustful of Western 
influence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and commonly blame domestic 
problems on foreign enemies without offering evidence.

   The protests, which emerged in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa 
Amini after her arrest for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic's strict 
dress code, have embroiled dozens of cities across the country and evolved into 
the most widespread challenge to Iran's leadership in years. A series of 
mounting crises have festered and helped fuel public rage, including the 
country's political repression, ailing economy and global isolation.

   Iran's security forces have sought to disperse demonstrations with tear gas, 
metal pellets, and in some cases live fire, rights groups say. Iran's state TV 
reports that violent confrontations between protesters and the police have 
killed at least 41 people, but human rights groups say the number is much 
higher.

   As the new academic year officially began this week, the demonstrations 
spread quickly to university campuses, long considered sanctuaries in times of 
turmoil. Videos on social media showed students expressing solidarity with 
peers who had been arrested and calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. 
Roiled by the unrest, many universities moved classes online this week.

   The prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran became a 
battlefield on Sunday as security forces surrounded the campus from all sides 
and fired tear gas at protesters who were holed up inside a parking lot, 
preventing them from leaving. The student union reported that police arrested 
hundreds of students, although many were later released.

   In one video on Monday, students marched and chanted, "Jailed students must 
be freed!" at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran. In another, students 
streamed through Khayyam University in the conservative city of Mashhad, 
shouting, "Sharif University has become a jail! Evin Prison has become a 
university!" -- referring to Iran's notorious prison in Tehran.

   Protests also appeared to grip gender-segregated high schools across Iran on 
Monday, where groups of young girls waved their state-mandated hijabs and 
chanted "Woman! Life! Freedom!" in the city of Karaj west of the capital and in 
the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, according to widely shared footage.

   The response by Iran's security forces has sparked widespread global 
condemnation. On Monday, President Joe Biden said his administration was 
"gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on 
peaceful protesters in Iran, including students and women."

   Furious over Iran's response to the demonstrations, the British foreign 
office summoned the Iranian ambassador in London.

   "The violence leveled at protests in Iran by the security forces is truly 
shocking," said British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

 
 
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