Protests in Iran

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ira­nian pro­test­ers chant slo­gans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Satur­day. Ira­nian hard-lin­ers ral­lied Satur­day to sup­port the coun­try’s supreme leader and cler­i­cally over­seen gov­ern­ment as spon­ta­neous protests sparked by anger over the coun­try’s ail­ing econ­omy roiled ma­jor cities in the Is­lamic Repub­lic.

TEHRAN, Iran — A wave of spon­ta­neous protests over Iran’s weak econ­omy swept into Tehran on Satur­day, with col­lege stu­dents and oth­ers chant­ing against the gov­ern­ment just hours af­ter hard-lin­ers held their own rally in sup­port of the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s cler­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment.

The demon­stra­tions ap­pear to be the largest to strike the Is­lamic Repub­lic since the protests that fol­lowed the coun­try’s dis­puted 2009 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Thou­sands al­ready have taken to the streets of cities across Iran, be­gin­ning at first Thurs­day in Mash­had, the coun­try’s se­cond-largest city and a holy site for Shi­ite pil­grims.

The protests in the Ira­nian cap­i­tal, as well as U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweet­ing about them, raised the stakes. It also ap­par­ently forced state tele­vi­sion to break its si­lence, ac­knowl­edg­ing it hadn’t re­ported on them on or­ders from se­cu­rity of­fi­cials.

“Coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion groups and for­eign me­dia are con­tin­u­ing their or­ga­nized ef­forts to mis­use the peo­ple’s eco­nomic and liveli­hood prob­lems and their le­git­i­mate de­mands to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for un­law­ful gath­er­ings and pos­si­bly chaos,” state TV said.

The protests ap­pear sparked by so­cial me­dia posts and a surge in prices of ba­sic food sup­plies, such as eggs and poul­try. Of­fi­cials and state me­dia made a point Satur­day of say­ing Ira­ni­ans have the right to protest and have their voices heard on so­cial is­sues.

How­ever, pro­test­ers in Tehran on Satur­day chanted against high-rank­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and made other po­lit­i­cal state­ments, ac­cord­ing to the semiof­fi­cial Fars news agency. Hun­dreds of stu­dents and oth­ers joined a new eco­nomic protest at Tehran Univer­sity, with riot po­lice mass­ing at the school’s gates as they shut down sur­round­ing roads.

Fars also said protests Fri­day also struck Qom, a city that is the world’s fore­most cen­ter for Shi­ite Is­lamic schol­ar­ship and home to a ma­jor Shi­ite shrine.

So­cial me­dia videos pur­port to show clashes be­tween pro­test­ers and po­lice in sev­eral ar­eas. At least 50 pro­test­ers had been ar­rested since Thurs­day, au­thor­i­ties said. State TV also said some pro­test­ers chanted the name of Iran’s one-time shah, who fled into ex­ile just be­fore its 1979 Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion.

Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Azari Jahromi sent a mes­sage by Twit­ter to the CEO of mes­sag­ing ser­vice Tele­gram, Pavel Durov, say­ing: “A tele­gram chan­nel is en­cour­ag­ing hate­ful con­duct, use Molo­tov cock­tails, armed up­ris­ing, and so­cial un­rest.” Tele­gram re­sponded say­ing it had sus­pended the ac­count.

“A Tele­gram chan­nel [amad­news] started to in­struct their sub­scribers to use Molo­tov cock­tails against po­lice and got sus­pended due to our ‘no calls for vi­o­lence’ rule. Be care­ful — there are lines one shouldn’t cross.” Durov tweeted.

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