DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard paramilitaries launched a new satellite-carrying rocket on Saturday, state television reported, seeking to demonstrate the prowess of harsh force even as protests anti-government rage across the country.
Iranian state television said the Guard successfully launched the solid-fuel rocket – what it called a Ghaem-100 satellite carrier – and broadcast dramatic footage of the rocket lifting off from a launch pad of the desert in a cloudy sky. The report did not reveal the location, which looked like the Shahroud desert in northeast Iran.
State news agency IRNA said the carrier would be able to put a satellite weighing 80 kg (176 pounds) into orbit about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Earth.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guard’s aerospace division, said he hoped the Guard would soon use the rocket to orbit a new satellite, named Nahid.
Iran says its satellite program, like its nuclear activities, is for scientific research and other civilian applications. The United States and other Western nations have long been wary of the program because the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles. Previous launches have drawn criticism from the United States
The Guard operates its own space program and a military infrastructure that parallels Iran’s regular armed forces and answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit, and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The program has given the recent problems, Nevertheless. There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh Programanother rocket carrying satellites.
A fire at the Imam Khomeini spaceport in February 2019 killed three researchers, authorities said at the time. A launch rocket explosion later that year caught the attention of former President Donald Trump.
The Guard’s announcement came amid the seventh week of protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was arrested after allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
The protests that rocked the country initially focused on the state-mandated headscarf, or hijab, but quickly turned into one of the biggest challenges to the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. demonstrators chant the overthrow of the clerical regime and the death of Khamenei.
Security forces, including paramilitary volunteers with the Revolutionary Guardsviolently suppressed the protests, killing more than 300 people, including 41 children, according to Oslo-based Iran Human Rights.
On Saturday, Iranian student unions reported protests at at least six major universities across the country. Universities have been hubs for unrestfueling the protest movement despite the repression.
Anger over Iran’s ailing economy, stifled by US sanctions and years of mismanagement, has also driven people to the streets. Talks to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which granted Tehran sanctions relief in return for tough curbs on its atomic program, reached an impasse months ago.
On Saturday, Iran’s currency, the rial, plunged to its lowest value on record against the dollar. Iran’s currency traded at 360,000 rials to the dollar, down from 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan was plagued by unrest on Friday, prompting a deadly response from security forces. Advocacy group HalVash said security forces killed at least 16 people.
Prominent Iranian Sunni cleric Mowlavi Abdolhamid Esmailzehi on Saturday condemned the violence in Sistan-Balochistan as another “bloody disaster”, saying security forces opened fire on protesters who were only “scanning slogans and throwing stones” in front of the governor’s office.
Sistan and Balochistan’s judiciary announced on Saturday that 620 people had been arrested in the province during the unrest, with 45 people convicted so far of damaging public property and encouraging young people on social media to join the protests. demonstrations.
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