Protests rally in western Iran, some demonstrators detained in Tehran

Kristopher Drake
December 30, 2017

The protests began against rising prices but have spiralled into a general outcry against clerical rule and government policies.

He was referring to the mushrooming of unauthorised lending institutions under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad between 2005 and 2013.

The demonstrations began in the north-eastern city of Mashhad - the country's second most-populous - on Thursday.

The lawmaker's account of the protests seemingly absolves the current government of responsibility for the conditions that are being protested by victims of a widening income gap in the Islamic Republic.

He has tasked the central bank with reimbursing lost deposits, but progress has reportedly been slow.

They represent the most serious and widespread expression of public discontent in Iran since mass protests in 2009 that followed a disputed election, correspondents say.

Videos on social media also showed demonstrators chanting "Leave Syria, think about us", criticizing Iran's military and financial support for President Bashar al-Assad who is fighting opponents of the government in Syria's six-year-old civil war.

He said they were "under the influence of propaganda" and were "unaware that the majority of these calls to protest come from abroad". It said many marchers who wanted to raise economic demands left the rallies after demonstrators shouted political slogans.

The protests spread to other cities in the north-east, and and some developed into broader anti-government demonstrations, calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to police beatings.

Despite government arrests, threats, and attacks, calls for protest continue to social media.

The rally in Kermanshah appeared larger - with hundreds shown protesting in videos shared on social media - and was reportedly focused on those who lost money in the collapse of unauthorised lending institutions in recent years.

HAMED MALEKPOUR

The head of the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad, Hasan Heidari, told Fars that 52 protesters were arrested in Mashhad over their "illegal" gathering on Thursday.

Political imprisonment is rampant in the Islamic Republic, and the BBC report also indicates that this was one of the topics that had been advanced by some protestors.

Rouhani's leading achievement, a 2015 deal with world powers that curbed Iran's disputed nuclear program in return for a lifting of most global sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.

The protesters have been angered by rising prices and corruption. A recent editorial in Forbes points out that the new Iranian national budget, introduced by Rouhani in early December, includes the provision of 76 billion dollars to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its foreign special operations Quds Force, at a time when tens of thousands of victims of a November quake are still awaiting basic shelter and government services.

The number of protesters grew and reached to several thousand.

Tehran's deputy provincial governor Mohsen Hamedani said "less than 50 people" had gathered in one of the city's squares and several had been arrested after refusing to move on, according to the reformist newspaper Etamad. He added that if people want to show their anger by amassing in large numbers they should seek permission from the authorities first.

Since that initial reaction, Iranian officials seem to have increasingly justified crackdowns through acceptance of the broader characterizations of the protests' grievances and goals. Fars did not name any opposition groups.

The PMOI has also been a driving force in a number of activist campaigns within the Islamic Republic, including the push for worldwide attention and independent inquiry into the 1988 mass execution of political prisoners, which primarily targeted that same resistance organization.

The protests have continued even as anti-riot units of the State Security Forces were stationed extensively throughout the city. Ward observes that despite some officials' efforts to blame the previous presidential administration for ongoing problems, it is really the underlying clerical system that is responsible for the economic future of the Iranian people.

He said such gatherings would be firmly dealt with by the police, who are out in force on main intersections.


Other reports by Ligue1talk

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