Iran protests resume, social media footage shows

Monday, 01 Jan, 2018

The protests appeared to be sparked by social media posts and a surge in prices of basic food supplies like eggs and poultry, with demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans including "death to [current president Hassan] Rouhani". In Mashhad, some chanted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the administration's focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.

The protests have erupted at a time of deepening strains between Iran and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has imposed additional sanctions on Tehran and has threatened to scuttle the nuclear accord. "But we want this to be very wide in order to get people successful in Iran".

While it's hard to assess the size and level of organization surrounding the protests, what is clear is that a degree of frustration and resentment exists on the Iranian street. "Let's be a voice of voiceless people in Iran", Sara Fallah, director of ICWAF, said.

"At the same time, we should not allow for an atmosphere to be created in which the supporters of the revolution and the people are anxious about their lives and security".

Mohsen Araki, a Shia cleric who serves in Iran's Assembly of Experts, praised Mr Rouhani's efforts at improving the economy.

He said state broadcaster IRIB should better reflect different opinions, after criticism in recent days that the media has been stifled.

The powerful and influential leader of Friday prayers in Mashad, where the protests started, blamed the government for being out of touch with poor people needs and concerns.

Iran is marking the end of protests surrounding its disputed 2009 presidential election as new demonstrations have erupted over the country's economic woes.

Messaging app Telegram and photo-sharing app Instagram, which have been used to organise demonstrations, will be blocked temporarily in the country.

AFP reported Saturday that multiple news agencies in Iran cautioned Telegram could be blocked after Iran's communications minister said a channel pushed for an "armed uprising".

He came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but anger over high living costs and a 12-percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Thousands of pro-government demonstrators turned out earlier on Saturday for big rallies, organised in advance to mark the eighth anniversary of the suppression of the 2009 street protests. However, some in Iran access it and other banned websites using virtual private networks.

Although small, the anti-government protests on Saturday took on a much greater importance than the government-sponsored rallies. The two protesters were killed in clashes at the rally, he said.

They had outnumbered protesters at the university the day before, although online videos showed significant protests around parts of central Tehran later in the evening. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the footage.

Earlier Sunday, the nation's interior minister warned that protesters would "pay the price" for what he called their unlawful actions.

There were also reports of protests in Sanandaj and Kermanshah cities in western Iran. As pro-government protests emerged Friday to counter those marching against the country's hardline Shiite Muslim leadership, corruption and economic conditions, Iranian officials portrayed comments made by Trump and other officials as an attempt to interfere in the country's internal affairs.