Protests in Iran continued on Saturday evening despite a warning from the country’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a wing of the armed forces, which said that the “patience” of security forces had run out.
Videos uploaded to social media showed large crowds gathered at Tehran University and government-linked militias trying to disburse them with teargas.
Iran has been rocked by protests since September 16, when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in hospital after being beaten in custody. She had been detained by the country’s so-called morality police for violating the government-imposed dress code.
Street protests, which have also energised the country’s marginalised Kurdish and Baloch minorities as well as secular students and unions, have been accompanied by strikes. Teachers and oil sector workers have joined industrial action, protesting against the government response to the demonstrations.
The IRGC is linked to an internal militia force known as the Basij, which is tasked with maintaining security on the streets.
Government security forces have been accused of widespread abuses in an continuing crackdown and while estimates of the death toll vary, rights groups say at least 200 people, including over 20 children, have been killed.
“So far, Basijis have shown restraint and they have been patient,” the head of the IRGC in the Khorasan Junubi province, Brigadier General Mohammadreza Mahdavi, was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. “But it will get out of our control if the situation continues.”
Meanwhile, more than 300 Iranian journalists demanded the release of two colleagues jailed for their coverage of Amini in a statement published by the Iranian Etemad and other newspapers on Sunday.
Niloofar Hamedi took a photo of Amini's parents hugging each other in a Tehran hospital where their daughter was lying in a coma.
The image, which Ms Hamedi posted on Twitter, was the first signal to the world that all was not well with Amini, who had been detained three days earlier for what the morality police deemed inappropriate dress.
Elaheh Mohammadi covered Amini's funeral in her Kurdish home town Saqez, where the protests began. A joint statement released by Iran’s intelligence ministry and the intelligence organisation of the Revolutionary Guards on Friday had accused Ms Hamedi and Ms Mohammadi of being CIA foreign agents.
The arrests match an official narrative that Iran's archenemy the United States, Israel and other western powers and their local agents are behind the unrest and are determined to destabilise the country.
At least 40 journalists have been detained in the past six weeks, according to rights groups, and the number is growing.