Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei | Photo: AP/PTI
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded publicly on Monday to the biggest protests in Iran in years, breaking weeks of silence to condemn the violent rioting and accuse protests of being planned by the U.S. and Israel.
Khamenei described the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran's morality police, which set off the nationwide protests, as “a sad incident” that “left us heartbroken." However, he sharply condemned the protests as a foreign plot to destabilize Iran, echoing authorities' previous comments.
“This rioting was planned,” he told a cadre of police students in Tehran. “I say clearly that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”
He added of the protests: “Such actions are not normal, are unnatural."
His comments come as nationwide protests sparked by Amini's death entered their third week despite the government’s efforts to crack down.