Demonstrators protest in Mashhad in eastern Iran on Thursday. Photo: Iranian state TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Protests over rising prices of goods and government corruption have spread to more Iranian cities on Friday.
Large crowds gathered in the streets of the city of the largely Kurdish city of Kermanshah chanting “The people are begging. The clerics act like God,” and calling for the release of political prisoners.
According to Fars news agency, about 300 protesters damaged public property in Kermanshah before the demonstration was broken up by the police.
Video shared on social media showed large numbers of security forces beating demonstrators with batons in Kermanshah and using water cannons to restrain the crowds.
People of Kermanshah province are still struggling to recover from the November 12 earthquake that killed at least 579 people.
Demonstrations were also reported in Shiraz, Sari, Rasht, Qazvin, Qom, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Hamadan.
Many of the protests that began as anger over economic hardships developed into anti-government demonstrations with ralliers denouncing President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
This is the largest wave of public demonstrations since the 2009 Green Movement.
Iranian officials have alleged that there is some other hand behind the protests.
“Some incidents in the country these days are on the pretext of economic problems, but it seems there is something else behind them,” First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on state TV.
A Tehran official blamed external influences.
On Thursday, protesters in the northeast criticized Iran’s deployment of troops to support President Bashar al-Assad against the uprising that broke out in 2011, the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.
Some of Thursday’s demonstrators chanted “leave Syria, think about us.”
Protesters threw rocks, while security forces used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.
According to officials from Iran’s judicial establishment, more than 50 people were arrested in the protest held on Thursday.
Video footage on social media following the protests shows some injured protesters.
Protesters argued that Iran should care about its people rather than spending money on Lebanon and Syria.
Iran has been a primary backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Baathist regime in the civil war which began in 2011.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) is present in Syria, but Tehran claims they are there in an advisory role. Militias backed by Iran have lost fighters in the conflict.
Six slain fighters from the Fatemiyoun Division, an RGC-linked Afghan Shia militia, were buried Thursday in Iran, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation and recession.”
Despite Iran ranking in the top four worldwide in proven oil reserves, Tehran raised the price of fuel by up to 50 percent in next year’s budget.
The price of gasoline will reach 1500 tomans per liter (about $0.43), while diesel prices will increase from 400 to 300 tomans.
This fiscal year, 3.2 million Iranians (12.4 percent of the country’s 80 million people) were unemployed, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran.