Iran warned that protesters “pay the price” as unrest turn deadly

Vastavam web: Iran today warned that protesters will “pay the price” after a third night of unrest saw mass demonstrations across the country in which two people were killed and dozens arrested.As videos on social media showed thousands marching across the country, an official in the small western town of Dorud confirmed two people had been killed during protests, but denied security forces had fired on the crowd.”Unfortunately in these clashes two citizens from Dorud were killed. No bullets were fired by the police, military or security forces towards the people,” he said.

Videos on social media overnight showed demonstrations in Isfahan, Mashhad and many smaller cities but travel restrictions and limited coverage by official media made it difficult to confirm reports.”Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on state television early today.

“The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted,” he added.Iranian authorities said the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia and exile groups based in Europe.Internet was temporarily cut on mobile phones last night but was restored not long after.President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, has so far not made any statement since the unrest started in second city Mashhad on Thursday.There have been reminders of the regime’s continued support among conservative sections of society, with pro- regime students outnumbering protesters at the University of Tehran on Saturday.

Pre-planned rallies to mark the defeat of a 2009 protest movement also saw thousands of regime supporters out on the streets across the country on Saturday morning.But the anti-government protests appear to have been driven in large part by poorer sections of society, angry over high unemployment, soaring prices and financial scandals.”These economic protests are not something that has started overnight, it’s been at least a year since these people lost their money in credit institutions and have been protesting at various places,” he told AFP.

Unemployment is particularly high among young people, who have grown up in a less restrictive environment and are generally considered less deferential to authority.Since the 2009 protests against a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term were ruthlessly put down, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets.