San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

Supreme leader lauds protest crackdown


Iran’s supreme leader praised paramilita­ry volunteers tasked with quashing dissent in a televised address Saturday as dozens of eye doctors warned that a rising number of demonstrat­ors have been blinded by security forces during antigovern­ment demonstrat­ions.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed members of the Basij, the volunteer paramilita­ry wing of the elite Revolution­ary Guard, and reiterated unsupporte­d claims that protesters demonstrat­ing countrywid­e are “tools” of the U.S. and its “mercenarie­s.”

The Basij have taken a leading role in clamping down on demonstrat­ions that began Sept. 17, ignited by the death of a young woman while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Her death sparked a wave of protests that grew into one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the chaotic years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Protests continued Saturday at universiti­es in the capital Tehran and in other cities, according to social media. Because of a severe country-wide crackdown by Iranian security forces, demonstrat­ions have become more scattered.

Iran’s ferocious crackdown on dissent has drawn criticism, with at least 448 people killed and more than 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrat­ions.

In a letter, 140 ophthalmol­ogists raised concerns about a rising number of patients with severe eye injuries resulting from being shot with metal pellets and rubber bullets, according to pro-reform Iranian news site Sobhema and Iran Internatio­nal.

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