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UPDATE 1800 GMT: Appearing on State TV, President Rouhani has walked a line between declaring a right to protest and warning people to stay within acceptable limits in their demonstrations.

Rouhani said people must feel that they can express themselves, but he emphasized that the Government “will not tolerate those who want to destroy public buildings or riot in the streets”.

He rephrased this at another point: “The expectations and demands of the people are correct. But it is not acceptable to choose a path that creates problems or makes the enemy happy.

Analyst Siavush Randjbar-Daemi notes the vaguenes of Rouhani’s statement regarding the political and economic issues behind the demonstrations, invoking the precedent reformist President Mohammad Khatami during the 1999 Tehran protests:

Journalist Arash Karami summarizes:

UPDATE 1745 GMT: Protest in Tehran this evening:

People on Kargar Avenue chanting “Death to the Dictator”:

In Mashhad:

Chabahar in southeast Iran:

UPDATE 1300 GMT: President Hassan Rouhani is expected to address the nation on State TV soon about the protests.

State TV has confirmed that Iranian authorities have blocked the messaging applications Instagram and Telegram to “maintain peace”.

The head of Telegram says the shutdown came after his refusal to close channels advocating peaceful protest:

Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Square is surrounded by anti-riot police and plainclothes agents.

TEHRAN 31-12-17

A demonstration in Isfahan led by a woman assuring,”Don’t be afraid, Don’t be afraid. We are all together”:

Families of detained protesters gather outside Evin Prison in Tehran.

UPDATE 1030 GMT: Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli has issued the latest response of the Rouhani Government to the protests.

Fazli said, “The events and incidents in recent days have caused concern, unease and unhappiness for our dear people.”

He did not address the economic or political causes of the demonstrations but emphasized that the Government, Parliament, and judiciary are determined to follow up claims to solve problems.

Most of Fazli’s statement was a denunciation of protesters, saying that they are hindering security, production, and employment. He said, “They are after causing violence and fear. Of course, such behavior will be smashed.”

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Thousands of Iranians continued protests over economic and political issues for a third day on Saturday, with the regime unable to check the discontent despite its counter-rally of support.

There were marches in almost every city, including the capital Tehran. Crowds burned photos of Iranian leaders — including the Supreme Leader and General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Forces — and of the paramilitary Basij while continuing chants targeting the Leader such as “Death to the Dictator” and “Shame on you, Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Let the country go.”

See Iran Video Special: Saturday’s Protests Across the Country
Iran Daily, Dec 30: Regime Shaken as 1000s Protest in Almost All Cities Across Country

The Governor’s building in Khorramabad in western Iran was reportedly set ablaze after claims that police had shot dead four protesters in Lorestan Province. Videos on social media from the town of Dorud showed two young men lying motionless on the ground, covered with blood. An Iranian journalist confirmed the death, naming the men as Hamzeh Lashni and Hossein Reshno.

Habibollah Khojastepour, the Deputy Governor of Lorestan Province, maintained, “It is clear that two protestors were killed by ISIS and foreign agents.” However, an MP from the province justified the use of force, saying police could do nothing but kill “those who crossed the boundaries”.

Elsewhere, most rallies were peaceful, but in Iran’s second city Mashhad a police motorcycle was set afire and footage from Rasht reportedly showed police cars alight.

Video also showed clashes between security forces and young men in Ahwaz in southern Iran.

Fars News, linked to the Revolutionary Guards, claimed only 70 people turned out in Tehran, but videos showed larger gatherings. The Islamic Students News Agency said police shut two metro stations to prevent even more protesters, and security forces used clubs to disperse people. Participants in the protest spoke of beatings, detentions, and pursuit by riot police.

Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari, the Revolutionary Guards’ deputy security chief in Tehran, insisted the situation was under control and warned protesters would face “the nation’s iron fist”: “If people came into the streets over high prices, they should not have chanted those slogans and burned public property and cars.”

In Malayer in western Iran, crowds shout, “Down with the Dictator”, in front of a banner of the Supreme Leader:

In Rasht in northern Iran, crowds chant “Death to the Revolutionary Guards”:

In Shiraz:

In Shahsevar in northern Iran:

Regime Searches for a Response

The regime continued to scramble for an effective response. Its attempt for a show of support by “millions” — planned long before last week’s events but given urgency by developments — only drew about 4,000 people in central Tehran and an unknown number of people in other cities and towns. Warnings by Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli that people should “not participate in…illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens”, and by the Revolutionary Guards that they “will not allow the country to be hurt” appeared to have no effect.

First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri insisted on Saturday that the initial cause of the demonstrations was without basis, claiming the Iranian economy is “on the right track” despite “certain shortcomings” — although he did acknowledged that “the prices of several commodities may have seen a rise due to some incidents”. He called on those behind the demonstrations to be identified, and for all groups to work to solve Iran’s problems.

Last night authorities reportedly tried to stem the demonstrations by cutting or limiting communications. Connections to the internet wer restricted, and satellite broadcasting was jammed. The popular messaging service Telegram shut down one channel, Amad News, after authorities said it was inciting violence.

Official and semi-official media finally acknowledged the protests in their English-language outlets, but only as an opportunity to blame them on US interference. State broadcaster IRIB said on its website that it had not covered the protests because it was told by authorities that “the issue should not be reflected on state radio and television”.

Protesters in Bandar Abbas set a poster of the Supreme Leader on fire:

Khamenei’s poster is taken down in Tehran:

A demonstration in Bojnord in northeast Iran — “Down with the dictator”:

A map of the spread of the protests: