Iranian Official Warns Against New Rallies After Price Protests Turn Political

Iranians protest inflation govt 'mismanagement'
Dozens Arrested in Iran's Second City After Protests Over Prices

30 December, 2017

In the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, security forces sprayed tear gas at the demonstrating crowds.

Fars reported that protesters in Kermanshah chanted anti-government slogans such as "never mind Palestine, think about us", "death or freedom" and "political prisoners should be freed".

A senior government official has accused the opponents of President Hassan Rouhani's administration of being involved in organizing a recent protest in the city of Mahshad.

"In the beginning, the protests were peaceful and the slogans were about high prices and economic corruption", added the source. Poultry is an important part of the diet of many of Iran's 80 million people, and previous price increases have caused political problems for its leaders in the years since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported that officials said around 300 protesters gathered in the western city of Kermanshah, the scene of a devastating quake in November that killed over 600 residents.

State television said annual nationwide rallies and events were scheduled for Saturday to commemorate pro-government demonstrations held in 2009 to counter protests by reformists.

But one lawmaker in the region said there were other reasons behind the protests.

Various chants appeared to target both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, without naming him, and President Hassan Rohani.

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Similar yet smaller protests reportedly took place in a few other cities, responding to calls on the Telegram messaging service for a day of demonstrations to say "No to high prices".

Mashhad Gov. Mohammed Rahim Norouzian was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying that "the demonstration was illegal but the police dealt with people with tolerance".

Videos posted online showed a crowd in Mashhad chanting "Death to the dictator" and "Death to Rohani", with police using water cannons to push back the crowds. However, some protests saw criticism of Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country's civil war, in which the Guard has played a major role.

Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a close Rouhani ally, suggested that hardline conservative opponents of the pragmatist president might have triggered the protests but lost control of them.

The promise of rebuilding the economy - shattered by years of sanctions and maladministration - has been the central plank of Rouhani's government since he first won power in 2013.

Iran's inflation rate was recorded at 9.9 percent in December 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mashhad was among the areas hardest hit by the closure of Mizan, which had around one million accounts, according to the official IRNA news agency.

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