Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Iran to demonstrate against the country’s president, mullahs and price rises for the second day.
Videos show crowds chanting ‘Death to the dictator’ and ‘Death to Rouhani’ across the Islamic republic – including Iran’s holy second city, Mashhad – as the protests spread to at least eight other cities.
State media said 52 people have been arrested, with footage recorded by protesters yesterday showing tear gas being thrown into crowds by riot police.
Some also chanted: ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran’ – a reference to anger at the government’s repeated interventions abroad.
One activist reported on social media that crowds also shouted: ‘Leave Palestine and think about us’.
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.
Political protests of national significance took place most recently in 2009 when Mahmoud Amadinejad’s re-election as president ignited an eight-month firestorm of street demonstrations. His pro-reform rivals said the vote was rigged.
Prominent conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda was quoted as saying: ‘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,’ .
Alamolhoda, the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of yesterday’s protests against rising prices to raise slogans against Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts.
‘Some people had came to express their demands, but suddenly, in a crowd of hundreds, a small group that did not exceed 50, shouted deviant and horrendous slogans such as “Let go of Palestine”, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’d give my life for Iran”,’ Alamolhoda said.
Videos on social media also showed demonstrators chanting ‘Leave Syria, think about us’, criticising 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.