12 people have been killed as anti-government protests over corruption, rising food and fuel prices as well as unemployment continued for the fourth day in Iran on Monday, media reports say.
The anti-government protests continued despite an appeal for calm by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, the state-run IRNA reported.
Rouhani said that citizens were “completely free to express their criticism of the government or stage protests… in a way that would lead to the improvement of the country’s conditions” but warned against violent acts.
He played down the significance of the protests on Monday, as the country’s leadership struggled to respond to the largely spontaneous uprisings.
“Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing,” Rouhani said in a meeting with Iranian MPs.
In a nod to the concerns fuelling the protests, he added: “We have no bigger challenge than unemployment. Our economy requires major corrective surgery.”
According to a report, several armed protestors tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces.
Police used teargas and water cannon to quell a rally in Tehran’s Engheleb Square and demonstrations were reported in Kermanshah and Khorramabad in the west, Shahinshahr in the northwest and in the northern city of Zanjan.
Earlier, state-run media outlet IRIB reported that officials had temporarily restricted access to social media apps Instagram and Telegram, which were used by Iranians to share news about the protests.
Iran’s Minister for Communications and Technology Azari Jahromi denounced the reports as “rumours” in a tweet.
Social media has helped gather tens of thousands participating in the protests — described as the largest public display of discontent in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement when people took to the streets to dispute the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a CNN report said.
Some protestors even called for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
In some demonstrations, women cast off their hijabs, defying the country’s strict “Islamic” dress code.
The demonstrations saw Iranians chanting “We don’t want an Islamic Republic” and “Death to the dictator”.
US President Donald Trump voiced his support for the demonstrations in a series of tweets on Sunday.
He posted: “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”
Rouhani slammed Trump in his speech, saying that the US President had been at the root of many of Iranians’ woes, “constantly creating problems” for people in the country since he entered the White House. A senior Iranian military commander said Trump’s support for “rioters in Iran shows Washington’s scheme to hatch a new act of sedition against the Islamic Republic,” according to Press TV.