Iran Protests Spread, Turn Political

Iranian Official Warns Against New Rallies After Price Protests Turn Political

Large crowds of people took to the streets in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah on December 29, a day after hundreds protested against high prices and shouted political slogans in the country’s second-largest city, Mashhad.

Footage on social media showed protesters in Kermanshah’s central Azadi Square chanting “Death to the dictator” and “The nation is struggling in poverty; the leader is trying to act as God.”

Various chants appeared to target both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, without naming him, and President Hassan Rohani.

State media quoted Mohsen Hamadani, a deputy governor of Tehran Province, as saying that law enforcement agencies would take tough measures against any gatherings in the wake of the protests in Mashhad.

Kermanshah is the capital of the impoverished province of the same name. The province bore the brunt of a November 14 earthquake that killed at least 530 people and injured some 8,000 in Iran, leaving many others without shelter.

Unconfirmed reports said that protests were held on December 29 in some other Iranian cities, including Shiraz.

Political rallies are rare in Iran, but demonstrations are often held over economic issues such as layoffs, nonpayment of salaries, and price hikes.

Fars news agency reported that police arrested 52 people after December 28 rallies in Mashhad.

Videos posted on social media showed some protesters in Mashhad chanting slogans including “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Rohani,” with police using water cannons to push back the crowds.

Some others chanted “Leave Syria alone, think about us,” condemning Iran’s financial and military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are fighting government opponents in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Mohammad Rahim Norouzian, the Mashhad governor, as saying there was an illegal “No To High Prices” gathering in the city.

Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a Rohani ally, suggested that hard-line opponents of the president may have started the protests in Mashhad.

“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,” he warned.

Prices on many essential products, including eggs, have increased up to 40 percent in recent days. Farmers have blamed the hikes on higher prices for imported feed.

According to Iran’s Central Bank, inflation in the country is running at about 10 percent.

The semiofficial Ilna news agency reported there were smaller protests in Neyshabour, Kashmar, Yazd, and Shahroud on December 28.


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