Pro-government rallies held in Iran to protest violence

07 January, 2018, 01:17 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Protesters gather in Tehran as unrest spreads across Iran

The current countrywide protests have rocked Iran, ever since people took to the streets on December 28 to demonstrate against rising prices and poor economic conditions. Lawmakers in both parties have also expressed support for the protesters. The protests then rapidly spread throughout the rest of the country of 80 million people. They have chanted slogans against all of Iran's leaders, including the clerical elite, and attacked police vehicles, banks and mosques as the unrest widened. However, two and a half years after the deal was agreed in Vienna, unemployment (especially amongst young people) and inflation rates remain high in Iran, and corruption is still widespread. A recent increase in egg and poultry prices by as much as 40 percent, which a government spokesman blamed on a cull over avian-flu fears, appears to have been the spark for the economic protests.

Trump is right that simmering resentment over the costs of Iran's aggressive foreign policy have led protesters to call for more spending at home and less on support of radical groups overseas.

So far, no central leadership has emerged.

The rallies, scheduled weeks earlier, commemorated a mass 2009 pro-government rally challenging those who rejected the re-election of hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid fraud allegations.

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Iranian officials have downplayed the strength of the protests.

But even as he attempted to mollify protesters, authorities said they blocked Instagram and the messaging app Telegram on Sunday in a move aimed at blunting the demonstrations. Uniformed and plainclothes police are in the streets, as are motorcycle-riding members of the Basij, a volunteer force under the Revolutionary Guard that helped carry out the 2009 crackdown. At least 36 people were killed in 2009, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

The semi-official ILNA news agency reported that the security deputy of Tehran's governor, Mohsen Hamedani, said that the city's provincial security council held a meeting to address the protests, but that its decisions were "classified".

Unconfirmed video footage on social media showed protesters and security forces on the streets of the city of Hamedan; flash bombs or grenades being thrown in Rasht and street fires in Karaj.

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President Donald Trump was quick to offer support to the protesters in a series of tweets. The State Department has accused Iran's leaders of turning "a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos".

"The President and Vice-President of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts", the ambassador wrote to the U.N. Security Council president and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Ever since the Islamic Republic was founded in 1979, the sight of government-supported mass gatherings to commemorate the revolution or protests against Zionism or USA foreign policy has become a regular occurrence. Elected representatives pass laws and govern on behalf of their constituencies. The final unique element was revealed in what the people were demanding from the regime's leaders. Security forces answering only to the supreme leader, like the Revolutionary Guard, routinely arrest dual nationals and foreigners, using them as pawns in global negotiations.

Still, tens of thousands of Iranians are defying calls to stay home as protests continue, usually at nighttime, in many cities across Iran.

The government has warned against "illegal gatherings" while there have also been several counter-demonstrations over the past three days. "And he's got a lot of loyal and ruthless troops at his disposal". As Cliff Kupchan at the Eurasia Group wrote in an analysis Sunday: "When it comes to regime survival, Khamenei calls the shots".

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