Anti-government protests sweep Iran – reports

Thousands of Iranians have taken streets in northern provinces of Iran on Thursday to protest rising food prices, but two days of continuing protests appear to have turned into a broader outcry against government policy.

Demonstrators were heard yelling “The people are begging, the clerics act like God” against clerical rule, and “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran” and “Leave Syria, think about us” against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign policy, BBC reported, while some protesters also called for the release of political prisoners.

“The demonstrations have taken the Iranian authorities by surprise,” BBC said, because the country’s intelligence services have a strong monitoring apparatus over the population.

But the gatherings are at times less than 100 people, and sometimes a few thousands, dispersed in at least seven cities, BBC said.

Iranian state television said pro-government rallies are scheduled for Saturday to counter protests by reformists, Reuters reported.

Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri suggested that hardline conservatives might have triggered the protests against Rouhani, but lost control to the wider reform supporters, Reuters said.

Unemployment reached 12.4 per cent, Reuters said, and an earthquake have killed over 600 people in November in Kermanshah.

Unconfirmed videos show the city witnessed demonstrators clashing with the national police.

Maryam Rajav, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in exile, posted a tweet in support of protests.

In every city where protests held, officials detained a few dozen protesters, news reports said, after the Iranian government warned the protests are illegal.

The U.S. Department of State released a statement regarding the demonstrations, saying:

“The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”