An ex-IRGC commander and MP has defended the right of Iranian security forces and police officers to carry weapons, saying their safety trumps that of society at large.
Ismail Kowsari, who is deputy chief of the Guards' Sarollah Base in Tehran and an adviser to the IRGC’s commander-in-chief, Hossein Salami, made the remarks in the context just as a bill was approved by parliament aiming to clarify and expand officers' rights to carry and use firearms in public.
The new law comes in the wake of repeated, lethal suppression of peaceful protests in Iran, like that seen in November 2019 and last summer in Khuzestan, and at a time of fresh unrest in the country sparked by food price hikes.
Security forces now have express permission to use weapons at "illegal protests and demonstrations" in a manner likely to contravene international law, and people who take up arms to protect themselves will not be punished if a member of law enforcement has told them to do so.
The draft legisltation was met with alarm and opposed even by some Iranian MPs. In an interview with the news website Madara, Ismail Kowsari said that parliament approved the law not to "fight popular protests" but to "fight terrorists and criminals".
He added: "In every country and human society, first the security of the security forces and the police is a priority, then the security of society. The legislature and government must, within the framework of the law, provide security agents with facilities to ensure their security first, and the security of the people second.
"We passed this law to deal with terrorists and criminals, not protesting people," he said. "What does this bill have to do with protesters? Protesters go to a certain place under the supervision of the police and security agencies, raise their grievances and leave, and this has nothing to do with the passing of this bill."
These comments come at a time when the Ministry of Interior is not issuing permits for any kind of demonstration, rendering any form of protest an "illegal" one. Kowsari tellingly added that the law being passed would "help establish security in cities".
The article permitting civilians to bear arms is also concerning. In November 2019 and at previous mass demonstrations, some of the worst acts of violent suppression were carried out by plainclothes officers, sometimes posing as participants.
In February this year the hacktivist group Edaalat-e Ali released classified minutes from a meeting at the Sarollah Headquarters, in which an IRGC intelligence official warned society was "in a state of explosion" and the state could expect more popular protests over the course of 2022.