Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Iran warns against ‘illegal gatherings’ following protests

AFP, TEHRAN

Protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran yesterday.

Photo: AP

The Iranian government yesterday warned people against further protests after two days of demonstrations sparked by anger over an array of economic problems.

“We urge all those who receive these calls to protest not to participate in these illegal gatherings, as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens,” Iranian Minister of the Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said.

State broadcaster Islamic Republic of Iran News Network said it had been banned from covering the protests that on Thursday spread from Iran’s second city, Mashhad, to other areas.

The protests initially targeted economic problems, but quickly turned against the Muslim regime as a whole.

US President Donald Trump said “the world is watching” after dozens of demonstrators were arrested.

Media coverage inside Iran focused almost exclusively on pro-regime rallies held yesterday to mark the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009.

The timing was coincidental, as the rallies are held every year on Dec. 30, but offered a handy show of strength to the regime as huge crowds of black-clad supporters gathered across the country.

“The enemy wants once again to create a new plot and use social media and economic issues to foment a new sedition,” Ayatollah Mohsen Araki told a crowd in Tehran, the conservative Fars news agency reported.

Video footage on social media showed hundreds marching through the holy city of Qom on Friday evening, with people chanting “Death to the dictator” and “Free political prisoners.”

There were even chants in favor of the monarchy toppled by the 1979 Islamic revolution, while others criticized the regime over its support of the Palestinians and other regional movements rather than focusing on problems at home.

Footage showed thousands gathered in cities including Rasht, Hamadan, Kermanshah and Qazvin, with police responding with water cannons.

Officials were quick to blame outside forces for the unrest.

“Although people have a right to protest, protesters must know how they are being directed,” Iranian Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar said on Twitter.

Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets.

However, low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, often on a sector-by-sector basis, as bus drivers, teachers or workers from specific factories protest against unpaid wages or poor conditions.

Some of this week’s protests were directed against financial scandals linked to unauthorized lending institutions that collapsed with the loss of hundreds of thousands of accounts.

Payam Parhiz, editor-in-chief of reformist Nazar media network that broke the news of the Mashhad protests, said they were more focused on the economy than those in 2009, which were sparked by allegations of election-rigging.

“Then, they were middle-class and their slogans went beyond economic matters to things like cultural liberties,” he told reporters. “Today, the concerns are economic. There are people who have lost their life savings. They will protest until their problems are resolved.”

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