Several cities in Iran saw public protests on Friday as citizens angered by perceived corruption and economic turmoil spilled into the streets.
Political protests in the country are uncommon, the last significant occasion being eight months of unrest following the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
The outbreak of unrest reflects growing discontent over rising prices and alleged corruption, as well as concern over the country’s costly involvement in regional conflicts such as Syria and Iraq.
An official said a few protesters had been arrested in Tehran, and videos posted on social media showed a heavy police presence and demonstrations in a number of other cities.
A demonstration by factory workers demanding back wages turned into a protest against Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to one resident in the city of Isfahan.
Rouhani’s leading achievement, a 2015 deal with world powers that curbed Iran’s disputed nuclear programme in return for the lifting of most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.
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.
The United States strongly condemned the arrests and indicated it is monitoring the situation:
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement the US urged “all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”
“Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos,” she said. “As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people.”
Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests