Two shot dead in protests in southwest Iran

Iran protests Rouhani Ayatollah Khamenei damon newday_00000000

The recent opposition by the Iranian people to these living conditions appears to be spreading.

Officials and state media made a point on Saturday of saying Iranians have the right to protest and have their voices heard on social issues. It was not clear if new protests were held Wednesday or if the videos showed earlier incidents.

The past week's protests have been the largest in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election, which ended in bloodshed.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday acknowledged the grievances of protesters nationwide but called on them to refrain from violence after a night of escalating unrest saw attacks on government buildings and confrontations with police. However, they have said protest rallies are different from vandalism and violent actions.

However, the current wave of protests, which started at the end of December, does not fit this pattern, as demonstrations against economic hardship quickly turned into the biggest anti-government protests Iran has witnessed in almost a decade.Hundreds of people took to the streets in the eastern city of Mashhad on December 28, where protesters voiced their anger at rising food prices.

Now, they've morphed into demands for wholesale change in Iran's theocratic government.

The strength of protests shaking Iran was unclear on Thursday after a week of unrest that killed at least 21 people, with fewer reports of demonstrations as government supporters again took to the streets in several cities and towns. Some have criticized Iran's military support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while others have praised the US -backed shah, who fled into exile just before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and died of cancer the following year.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Iran's foes of fomenting the unrest, which began as protests about economic hardship and corruption but has grown into political rallies, some of which have criticized him by name. He is a leading expert on Iran and USA foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council.

The Iranian people have long expressed a desire for change, seen by the Green Movement of 2009 that did not receive forceful support from the Obama administration.

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The protests highlight discontent with the lack of economic progress under President Rouhani, who was first elected on a reformist platform in 2013, promising to lead Iran out of its global isolation, guarantee greater freedoms and improve the economy.After Tehran and six major powers agreed on a deal to limit Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, hopes were high that an end to the sanctions would end inequality.

Mr Trump has been vocal on Twitter about the protests in Iran since they erupted last week.

He added: "You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!"

The Iran nuclear deal of 2015 unfroze billions of dollars in Iranian assets that will enrich government officials, but the people continue to lack true democracy or prosperity.

Mr Rouhani described the U.S. president as an "enemy of the Iranian nation from the top of his head to his very toes" after Mr Trump said Iranians were "finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism".

S-DEMO Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017.

"The president and vice-president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts", the ambassador wrote to the UN Security Council president and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Rouhani's office did not mention the comment.

It remains hard for journalists to piece together what's happening beyond the capital, especially as the government has blocked both the photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging app Telegram, which protesters have used to organize their demonstrations and share footage.

The 2009 protests were also largely centered in Tehran, unlike this current round of protests which is stronger in provincial areas. Those protests, Iran's biggest since 1979, prompted a crackdown by Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates that saw thousands detained, dozens killed and others tortured.

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