Pro-Government Rallies in Iran After Days of Protest, Unrest

Tear gas appeared to have been fired at protesters at the University of Tehran

Image Tear gas appeared to have been fired at protesters at the University of Tehran

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.

However, Rouhani said that the aim of these protests should be to improve the situation in the country and people's lives.

The anti-government protests broke out on December 28 in Iran's second largest city of Mashhad, initially against price rises, and later expanded to other provinces. The city is a conservative bastion and a stronghold of Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric who unsuccessfully challenged President Hassan Rouhani in last year's election. The protests then rapidly spread throughout the rest of the country of 80 million people. However, two and a half years after the deal was agreed in Vienna, unemployment (especially amongst young people) and inflation rates remain high in Iran, and corruption is still widespread.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed "enemies" in his first comments on the protests that started last Thursday. When those Iraqis rose up against Saddam, U.S. forces didn't come to their aid.

So far, no central leadership has emerged.

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Hardliners have long opposed Mr. Rouhani's policies, especially his outreach to the West.The current wave of protests has sparked comparisons with the mass unrest in 2009 after the controversial re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Pro-regime demonstrations denouncing the 2009 Green Movement leaders also may have provoked a political backlash.

USA envoy to the UN Nikki Haley said the protests were "spontaneous", adding that the United States planned to call an emergency UN meeting on the situation.

Meanwhile, Iran's telecoms minister has said that Telegram will only be unblocked if it removed "terrorist" content after the social media app was shut down during this week's protests.

Chants were heard all over the nation, such as "Death to Hezbollah", "Leave Syria alone, think about us instead."The third element was that these demonstrations had an economic aspect as well.The Iranian people were chanting about how they were living like beggars.Another element that made these recent protests so ground-breaking was the exceptional role played by women".

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In his remarks Mr Rouhani acknowledged popular grievances, though he warned that the government would show "no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society".

"Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces", state TV reported.

"People of Izeh, like some other cities, held a protest against economic problems and unfortunately it led to the killing of two people and injuries to some others", the area's MP, Hedayatollah Khademi, told the ILNA news agency.

Since the protests began up to 400 people reportedly have been arrested, including 200 in Tehran on Saturday night. Some videos circulated online show protesters welcoming police officers and demonstrating peacefully.

The president came close to making such a promise in a tweet on New Year's Day that began with "Iran is failing at every level despite the bad deal made with them by the Obama Administration" and ended with the exclamation "TIME FOR CHANGE!" The State Department has accused Iran's leaders of turning "a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos".

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