Protests rage in Iran against economic hardships and alleged corruption

Iranian authorities are worried a crackdown could plunge into a crisis similar to the pro-reform unrest of 2009
Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran – Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/REUTERS
03/01/2018
11:56
Reuters
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The latest unrest began last week when hundreds took to the streets of Iran’s second largest city of Mashad to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.

Many Iranians believe their economic situation has not improved due to corruption and mismanagement.

Unemployment stood at 12.4% in this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran, up 1.4% from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators in Mashad in northwest Iran, one of the holiest places in Shia Islam, chanting “death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “death to the dictator.”

Demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar, were reported as well. The videos showed riot police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds.

Demonstrators also chanted ”leave Syria, think about us”, criticizing Iran’s deployment of troops to support President Bashar al-Assad against the uprising that broke out in 2011.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticized the government’s economic record, said that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation, and recession”, and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.

Since last Thursday, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Iran, alarming the government and the clerical leadership.

Ten people were killed during protests on Sunday, state television reported, as unsigned statements posted on social media sites called for new demonstrations in the capital Tehran and 50 other cities.

In a ratcheting up of tensions, protesters tried to take over some military bases and police stations but were pushed back by security forces, state TV said without elaborating.

President Hassan Rouhani struck a conciliatory tone as demonstrators widened their targets from police vehicles and banks to seminaries in a direct challenge to the country’s religious establishment.

Thus, Iranian authorities are treading cautiously in the face of mass protests, eager to take control but worried a crackdown could plunge the country into a crisis similar to the pro-reform unrest of 2009.

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