Iranian security forces reportedly arrested fourteen foreigners—including American, British, and French nationals—following their participation in Iran’s ongoing anti-government protest movement, according to the Iranian state-run Fars news agency.
“Citizens of 14 countries, including the United States, Russia, Austria, France, the United Kingdom, and Afghanistan, have been arrested in recent riots in Iran,” Fars claimed on Wednesday, emphasizing the violent nature of the protests. The news report noted that the “most numerous” foreign group participating in the demonstrations had been “Afghan nationals,” with millions living in eastern Iran. It did not specify when the arrests had been made or provide further information on the prisoners’ identities or whereabouts.
The Iranian government has not yet commented on the arrests. However, Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and other high-ranking officials within the Islamic Republic’s government have accused the United States and other Western nations of planning and helping to organize the unrest. In the early days of the protests, Iranian security forces arrested and imprisoned nine foreigners that the country’s justice system claimed had participated in the unrest but did not provide any details on their identities or nationalities.
Iran’s nationwide protest movement—sparked by the death in police custody of twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest for failing to wear a headscarf properly—has spread across Iran, leading to demonstrations in every major city. Although demonstrations have grown increasingly common in Iran, previous protests have focused on specific grievances and perceived local government failures. The current protest movement, however, has been framed by both its adherents and its detractors as an attempt to overthrow Iran’s clerical system of government, prompting a harsh crackdown from Iranian security forces and a refusal to offer concessions from the country’s leadership. The country has also experienced widespread internet blackouts over the past three weeks—a measure put in place to obstruct protesters’ ability to coordinate demonstrations with each other or share information with the outside world.
In recent weeks, Iranian authorities have accused the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Israel of working to support the protests. The government has singled out London for criticism, as it hosts several Persian-language satellite television channels, notably BBC Persian and Iran International, that have covered the protests in a favorable light.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.