The fighters, from Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, call themselves 'volunteers from the Islamic lands'. They say they want to collaborate with the ayatollahs to suppress internal dissent triggered by the killing of the young woman at the hands of the morality police. President Raisi announces an iron fist. At least 80 killed, hundreds arrested.
Tehran (AsiaNews) - After sending militiamen to various war zones in the Middle East for years, Iran is now "recruiting" foreign radical groups and mercenaries from Syria, Lebanon and Iraq to suppress the growing wave of popular outrage and protest over the killing of Mahsa Amini.
The fighters use the nom de guerre of 'volunteers from Islamic lands' and, in a message posted on social media, say they want to join the ayatollahs' regime in Tehran to help suppress the dissent triggered by the death of the young woman at the hands of the morality police.
The girl, of Kurdish origin and in the capital for a family holiday, had been stopped by a patrol car at the exit of the metro because she was not properly wearing the hijab, the obligatory veil.
While the street protests continue, repressed by force at the cost of a - still provisional - toll of over 80 victims, the militia group claims to have "formed spontaneously" and that its members are "willing to sacrifice their lives for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei".
Its members are followers of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force killed by a US drone strike in January 2020. Opposition groups inside the Islamic Republic call them radical Shia militias, which take orders directly from the Guardians of the Revolution (Pasdaran).
Street protests continued throughout the weekend, now extending to almost the entire country, with citizens condemning both the death of Mahsa Amini and the violent response of the authorities.
Demonstrations also took place in many foreign cities and capitals, from Istanbul to Glasgow, from London to Rome with slogans and chants including 'hijab murderer' and 'no to the Islamic Republic of Iran'. On these occasions it is not uncommon to see women purposely cutting their hair in solidarity with Iranian women.
In a video message from Zurich, where he is president of the jury of the local International Film Festival, Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi called on artists around the world to show their solidarity with the Iranian people 'in these difficult times'. "This society, especially these women, has travelled a harsh and painful path to this point, and now they have clearly reached a landmark," he added.
Ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi has intervened in the protests in recent hours, promising a "decisive" response to put an end to the discontent after cutting communications and internet services in much of the country, especially in the Kurdish area.
The Iranian leader brands the street demonstrations over the death of the young woman as "riots", against which "decisive" measures must be taken to guarantee the "security and tranquillity of the country".
In one week, hundreds of people were arrested, but there are no official figures on the numbers; the police chief of the north-western province of Guilan said that in his region alone, 739 people were detained, of whom at least 60 were women.
In recent days, there has also been the death of another young symbol of protest in Iran, Hadith Najafi, who became famous for a viral film in which, without a veil, she ties up her thick blond hair before taking part in a demonstration for the killing of Mahsa Amini.
According to Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad, who quotes her sister, the girl, only 20 years old, was allegedly shot 'by six bullets in the city of Karaj' for taking to the streets to demonstrate. 'Hadis,' Alinejad adds, 'was a kind-hearted girl who loved to dance' and her only 'crime' was to aspire for 'freedom' for all Iranians.