Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country.
“They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.
Authorities have blamed Iran’s foreign enemies and their agents for orchestrating the unrest, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16 after being arrested by the morality police that enforces strict Islamic dress codes in the country.
The activist news agency HRANA said as of Friday 448 protesters have been killed, including 63 children.
It said 57 members of the security forces have also been killed, and an estimated 18,170 people arrested.