Rouhani backs right to demonstrate as protests rock Iran

1 Jan 2018   Iran

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani appealed for calm on Sunday after the country was rocked by the biggest anti-regime protests in a decade. He told protesters they had the right to demonstrate over economic hardship but that Tehran would not tolerate violence that would threaten people’s security and undermine investment opportunities. “People are completely free in criticising [the government] or protesting,” Mr Rouhani said in his first public reaction to the unrest.

But “criticism is different from violence and destroying property . . . The government will definitely not tolerate any destruction of public property or social order. If there is insecurity, can jobs be created? Will people’s economic situation improve?” By Monday the number of people killed as a result of the unrest had reached at least six, according to local media. Four people died in Doroud, in the western province of Lorestan, and two in Izeh, in the south. Mashallah Nemati, governor of Doroud, said a fire engine had been seized by “rioters” in an incident in which a 12-year-old boy and a middle-aged person died.

On Sunday night two people died in clashes between protesters and police in Izeh in the southern province of Khuzestan, the city’s member of parliament, Hedayatollah Khademi, said. He added demonstrators had set some banks in the city on fire. Iran on Sunday temporarily blocked access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram, in an effort to curb dissent after thousands of people took to the streets across the country. About 200 protesters had been arrested in Tehran, according to an official.

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