As protesters continue to take to streets in Iran and shout anti-government slogans against high prices, a top cleric in the second largest city of Mashhad has called for tough action by security forces.
According to reports from the network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK) inside the country, the anti-regime protests in Iranian cities have spread throughout the country on Friday.
There were demonstrations in at least a dozen cities throughout Iran including Qom, Ahvaz, Isfahan, Zahedan, Qazvin, Kermanshah, Quchan, Sari, Qaemshahr, Rasht, Hamedan and Sabzevar today.
In Qom, young demonstrators chanted: “Death to Hezbollah”, “Seyed Ali [Khamenei] shame on you, let go of our country”, “Dignified Iranians, join your people”, “We don’t want an Islamic Republic”, “Young people are unemployed; and mullahs have all the positions”.
The commander of the State Security Forces warned that “This gathering is illegal, be dispersed or you will be treated as disruptors of public order.” But people paid no heed and continued their protest.
Breaking: Anti-riot unit of Police and Bassij militia started brutally suppressing peaceful protest of Iranian people in Rasht. Khamenei, the dictator supreme leader just issued the order now. pic.twitter.com/C6Ca1kMp7y— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 29, 2017
In Ahvaz, people chanted “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead”, “Forget about Gaza and Lebanon; I’ll sacrifice my life for Iran”, “Death to the dictator”, and “The nation is destitute while the leader is acting like God”.
In order to prevent the protests from spreading and not to allow people to join the demonstrations, the security forces blocked the main bridge of Ahvaz. Yet a number of people reached the other side of the bridge using boats.
In Isfahan, people gathered in Enqelab and ‘Khomeini’ squares as well as in ‘Siosepol’. In Enqelab Square, people chanted “Death to the dictator” and “Forget about Gaza and Lebanon; I’ll sacrifice my life for Iran”. The anti-riot forces broke up the people into different groups and started to arrest them.
In Zahedan, people chanted: “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead”.
In Qazvin, the protesterss chanted “Dignified Iranians, support us, support us” and “Guns and tanks! The mullahs’ must be killed”.
Hundreds gathered in front of the governor’s office in Sari for the protests.
The people of Kermanshah (West Iran) poured onto the streets from the morning hours of Friday, and demonstrators chanted “Death to the Dictator”, “Death to Rouhani”, “Don’t be afraid, we are all united”, and “Political prisoners should be freed.”
The number of protesters grew and reached to several thousand.
Police arrested 52 people in Thursday’s protests, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted a judicial official as saying in Mashhad. Political protests are rare in Iran but demonstrations are often held by workers over layoffs or non-payment of salaries and people who hold deposits in non-regulated bankrupt financial institutions.
This time, the protests have continued even as anti-riot units of the State Security Forces were stationed extensively throughout the city. Special anti-riot forces tried to disperse the protesters with water cannons but the people resisted and stood up to them, chanting “Shame on you”.
During the march, the protesters chanted: “The nation is destitute while the leader is acting like God”, “Forget Gaza, forget Lebanon; my life is for Iran”, and “Bread, work, freedom”.
The security forces charged at the people but the people resisted and confronted them.
In Tabriz, despite extensive mobilization of government forces to prevent mobilisation, people took part in protests and chanted “Death to the dictator”.
In Mashhad, fearing resumption of protests, the anti-riot forces and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) were deployed extensively on the streets and city squares. Patrols on motorcycles and vehicles were seen, and water cannons were stationed in various parts of the city.
In Tehran and Kerman cities, anti-riot forces and motorcycle patrols were being stationed in the main squares to prevent the formation of any protests.
“If the security and law enforcement agencies leave the rioters to themselves, enemies will publish films and pictures in their media and say that the Islamic Republic system has lost its revolutionary base in Mashhad,” IRNA quoted prominent conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda as saying.
Videos on social media
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators chanting “Death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “Death to the dictator”. Protests were also held in at least two other northeastern cities.
Death knell for mullahs’ regime
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, saluted the protestors: “This uprising has tolled the death knell for the overthrow of the totally corrupt dictatorship of the mullahs, and is the rise of democracy, justice and popular sovereignty.”
"The four-decade record of the mullahs’ rule has been nothing but inflation, poverty and corruption, torture and execution, killings and aggression. The bulk of the people’s wealth, including the money released in the nuclear deal, is either spent on repression and export of terrorism and war, or is plundered by the regime’s leaders. “The overthrow of the religious fascism is the first step to get out of the crisis that is intensifying every day,” she said.
“The mullahs’ regime has no future; investment on it is doomed to failure, and it is time for the international community to not tie their fate to this regime and recognize the Iranian people Resistance to overthrow that regime,” said Rajavi.
Alamolhoda, the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of Thursday's protests against rising prices to raise slogans against Iran's involvement in regional conflicts.
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.
Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a close Rouhani ally, suggested that hardline opponents of the president may have started the protests.
“When a social and political movement is launched on the streets, those who started it will not necessarily be able to control it in the end,” IRNA quoted Jahangiri as saying. “Those who are behind such events will burn their own fingers. They think they will hurt the government by doing so.”
With Reuters inputs.