Vastavam web: Tens of thousands of Iranians took part in pro-government demonstrations in several cities across the country today, Iranian state media reported, a move apparently seeking to calm nerves after a week of protests and unrest that have killed at least 21 people.While the rallies showed support among Iran’s 80 million people for its clerically overseen government, smaller and smaller towns in the Iranian countryside appear to be experiencing the unrest that has already swept through urban areas, according to protesters’ online videos.The protests, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, began on December 28 in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city and a bastion for hard-liners.
While initially focusing on Iran’s flagging economy and rising food prices, they’ve morphed into demands for wholesale change in Iran’s theocratic government.Demonstrators carried pre-printed signs and Iranian flags, with state TV offering a swooping helicopter shot in Ahvaz to show their scale. Ahvaz and the wider Khuzestan province is home to many ethnic Arabs and has seen unrest amid the protests.In Qom, state TV cameras focused on the Shiite clerics taking part, many wearing the black turbans identifying them as direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.”Look at the recent days’ incidents,” Khamenei said. “All those who are at odds with the Islamic Republic have utilised various means, including money, weapons, politics and (the) intelligence apparatus, to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution.”
Khamenei avoided identifying any foreign countries, although he promised to elaborate in the coming days.Undoubtedly high on his list is the United States, where President Donald Trump has tweeted his support for the protests for several days. Some demonstrators carried signs showing Trump’s face covered with a bright red “X.”US Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Instagram, Telegram and other platforms are “legitimate avenues for communication.” The head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court also reportedly has warned that arrested protesters could potentially face the death penalty.
“Obviously one of their charges can be Moharebeh,” or waging war against God, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi as saying. Moharebeh is punishable by death in Iran.A statement from Rouhani’s office quoted the president as saying: “Iranian police’s wise, calming presence in recent limited unrest indicates that we fully trust the security and stability in our country.” However, activist video showed unrest in Noor Abad, in Lorestan province, some 360 kilometres southwest of Tehran.