Authorities confirmed on Sunday that two men were killed in the western town of Doroud in Lorestan province during Saturday’s clashes, but said that police did not shoot at protesters. “Unfortunately, two of our dear citizens were killed in clashes,” said Habibollah Khojastehpour, deputy governor of Lorestan province. He alleged that foreign intelligence services and Sunni radical forces were behind the clashes.
In Tehran riot police on Saturday used batons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators while at Valiasr Crossroad — a hot spot for pro-democracy rallies — hundreds of protesters chanted “death to the dictator”, destroyed fences and set fire to rubbish bins, eyewitnesses said.
Videos on social media showed demonstrators in western Tehran tearing up a banner of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and ultimate decision-maker. In other cities, protesters chanted “death to Khamenei” and called for the removal of clerics from power. In the northern city of Rasht, protesters chanted “independence, freedom, Iranian Republic” — a rallying cry against the Islamic republic.
The biggest street protests since 2009 were sparked by a demonstration against rising prices that took place on Thursday in the north-eastern city of Mashhad — the main base of Iran’s hardliners. Reformist politicians and analysts say the protests were organised by hardliners to undermine the centrist government of Hassan Rouhani.
The rally in Mashhad encouraged Iranians across the country to pour on to the streets on Friday and challenge the political establishment. “These are no longer protests for a better economy,” said Ali, a 52-year-old driver in Tehran. “Demonstrators chant all sorts of slogans as if they don’t know what they want.”
On Saturday, Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, the interior minister, called for people to refrain from “illegal” gatherings, but Iran’s most senior leaders have not publicly reacted to the crisis.
Iran's official and semi-official media have limited coverage of the protests. Posts on social media suggest hundreds of protesters in towns and cities across Iran. While protests in some places have been peaceful, in other places demonstrators have set fire to state-owned buildings and property.
Hardline media have suggested that foreign powers are behind the unrest and warned of a conspiracy against the Islamic Republic. Fars news agency, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guards, has suggested that Iran’s enemies might stage deaths in order to further inflame the situation.
US President Donald Trump backed the protesters in a post on Twitter. He said: “The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.”
While protesters have no leader, a Turkey-based news channel on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, became the main source of information for co-ordinating anti-regime activity.
Pavel Durov, Telegram’s chief executive, said it had been suspended “due to our ‘no calls for violence’ rule”, after Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s telecommunications minister, called on him to block the channel, which he said was “encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprising, and social unrest”.
|Had Islamist-controlled security forces already killed a few hundred protesters all over Iran?|
Iran Revolutionary Guard: 'Iron fist' threatened if unrest continues
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have warned anti-government protesters they will face the nation's "iron fist" if political unrest continues. Three days of demonstrations erupted over falling living standards.
But a Revolutionary Guards commander said the protests had degenerated into people chanting political slogans and burning public property. They are the biggest show of dissent since huge pro-reform rallies in 2009. There are reports of two deaths.
There were calls for the removal or death of Iran's Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the cities of Khoramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz. Iran's Islamic Revolutions Guards Corp is a powerful force with ties to the country's supreme leader, and is dedicated to preserving the country's Islamic system.
Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari told the ISNA news agency: "If people came into the streets over high prices, they should not have chanted those slogans and burned public property and cars."
Iran's interior minister has also warned the public that protesters will be held accountable. "Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price," Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said. "The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted."
Protests began in the north-eastern city of Mashhad on Thursday and spread to other major cities on Friday. A small demonstration in Tehran grew to several thousand people on Saturday, and students clashed with police. The protests also became violent in several other towns.
Two people were reported dead in Dorud, after apparently being shot. In Abhar, demonstrators set fire to large banners bearing the picture of the supreme leader. In Arak, protesters reportedly set fire to the local headquarters of the pro-government Basij militia. In Mashhad, protesters burned police motorcycles in a confrontation caught on video
The CEO of popular mobile messaging app Telegram said an Iranian account had been suspended for calling for attacks on police. There are numerous reports of people losing internet access on their mobile phones. BBC Persian correspondent Kasra Naji said a common factor in all locations has been protesters' demand for an end to clerical rule in Iran.
There is also anger at Iran's interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the administration's focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.
Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. It is also accused of providing arms to Houthi rebels fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which it denies, and is an ally of Lebanon's powerful Shia movement Hezbollah. The Iranian authorities are blaming anti-revolutionaries and agents of foreign powers for the outbreak.
Also on Saturday, thousands of pro-government demonstrators turned out for pre-arranged rallies to mark the eighth anniversary of the suppression of the 2009 street protests. The US has led international support for the protesters.
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