Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) — Protests erupted in several cities in Iran for the second day in a row, catching many by surprise.
Hundreds came to streets shouting slogans denouncing a variety of grievances that ran across the political spectrum. Among them: rising prices, economic conditions, corruption, and the country’s foreign policy.
Some called for the release of political prisoners, economic reforms and greater social freedom. Others in the crowds condemned Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, chanting “Down with Rouhani.” Still others protested Iran’s longstanding support for the Palestinians, saying: “No Gaza, no Lebanon. I offer my life for Iran.”
The protests started on Thursday in Mashhad, a major holy city, and had spread to other cities including Kermanshah, Rasht, Qom and Tehran by Friday.
The protests remain uncovered by the state-run television, and the only official news agency of the country, IRNA, referred to them as “suspicious” gatherings. The protests were mostly coordinated via “cyberspace,” IRNA said. Telegram, a popular messenger service in the country, was used to coordinate the protests, according to feeds on Twitter.
In at least one city, the protests led to a violent police reaction. Videos from Kermanshah posted on Twitter appear to show police using violence against people and protestors reacting in turn by shouting slogans at police like “support us” and “catch criminals.”
There are differences of opinion on how the protests started. Sources like Fars News, close to conservatives, say protestors were mainly people who had lost money due to corruption in the banking system, which the conservatives blame on the current moderate government.
However, many other experts and officials, especially those close to Rouhani’s moderate government, including Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri, believe the riot was initially organized by the conservatives to weaken the government, but then other groups joined, including anti-conservatives.
“Those who initiated these events will be damaged themselves,” Jahangiri said in a speech in Tehran today, ISNA reported. He reminded that political movements can be hijacked and “others could surf the wave.”
On Twitter, which is technically blocked in Iran, some reformists and moderate religious supporters of the system have started openly warning hardliners that if they do not listen to people’s voices, the consequences could hurt everyone.
“Mr. Islamic Republic,” Hosein Derakhshan, known as the father of Persian blogging, and both a critic and a supporter of Rouhani and the Islamic revolution, wrote in a tweet, “Forty years ago you, the revolution, were more intelligent than the average illiterate person. You arrived, opened the universities and educated people. Now you lag behind. Catch up before it’s too late or we will all lose.”
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