Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps vowed to crush one of the biggest shows of dissent against the government in years, as days of confrontations between demonstrators and security forces turned deadly in a western province, TIME reports.
The guard — whose mandate is to safeguard the Islamic Revolution — warned late Saturday that it would respond with “a hard punch” if demonstrations didn’t stop. Two protesters were killed in Dorud in the province of Lorestan late Saturday during clashes with security forces, Habibollah Khojastehpour, deputy for political affairs for the province of Lorestan, said in an interview posted on the website of Iran’s state broadcaster.
The protests, which began in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Thursday, present a serious challenge to President Hassan Rouhani and the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Protesters first took aim at rising food prices and corruption, driven partly by a sense that the July 2015 nuclear deal hasn’t delivered the broad economic recovery many were expecting. By Friday, the dissent spread to other areas, and evolved into a wider condemnation of the clerical establishment and security forces.