UPDATE 2215 GMT: Sources inside Iran are reporting slowed or disrupted communications, apparently as the regime tries to limit information about the protests.
#IranProtests: Iranian users now reporting difficulties to connect to internet; slower connection on landlines & no internet connection on cellular networks for some. Also intensified jamming of satellite TVs where ppl follow the news from channels like @bbcpersian.
— Hadi Nili (@HadiNili) December 30, 2017
UPDATE 2045 GMT: Claimed footage of the Governor’s office set ablaze in Khorramabad in western Iran — unconfirmed accounts say the fire was set after police shot dead four protesters:
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) December 30, 2017
Claimed video of protesters setting a police motorcycle on fire in Mashhad:
— Hadi Nili (@HadiNili) December 30, 2017
UPDATE 1600 GMT: The editor of the conservative outlet Tasnim tries to belittle the protests as an insignificant display by monarchists, “Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi returns to Iran on a white horse”:
شاهزاده رضا ربع پهلوی با اسب سفید به کشور بازگشت pic.twitter.com/gNbQBcypZ5
— Hossein Dalirian (@HosseinDalirian) December 30, 2017
UPDATE 1510 GMT: The pro-regime demonstrations today were far smaller than the “millions” claimed by State media.
In Tehran, only about 4,000 people took part in the commemoration of the suppression of the Green Movement in 2009, even though the event was organized by the regime.
PHOTO: Hamed Malekpour/AFP/Getty
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli urged people “not to participate in…illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens”.
The Revolutionary Guards warned in a statement that they “will not allow the country to be hurt”.
Pro-regime academic Seyed Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University acknowledges that “economic difficulties” lie behind the protests but blames US sanctions, social media, and outlets like BBC Persian and Voice of America:
UPDATE 1400 GMT: First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri has insisted that the Iranian economy is “on the right track” despite “certain shortcomings”.
Jahangiri carefully acknowledged inflation: “The prices of several commodities may have seen a rise due to some incidents, and each case has its own reason.”
He warned that certain groups have used the economic issues as a “pretext” to harm the government, and called on those behind the demonstrations to be identified.
Jahangiri repeated his Friday call for all political groups in the country to join hands and help resolve the country’s problems.
UPDATE 1345 GMT: Iran’s official and semi-official English-language media have finally mentioned the protests — but only when they had the opportunity to blame them on US interference.
The Foreign Ministry seized on statements by the State Department and the White House calling for acceptance of the rights of demonstrators and denouncing regime “corruption” and “support of terrorism”. Spokesman Bahram Qassemi claimed, “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution has taken into account the democratic structures for legal supports for people’s civil demands, and it is quite possible to pursue those demands within the framework of law.”
Qassemi insisted that Iranians “give no credit to the opportunistic remarks of American officials or Mr. Trump”, since they saw US “violations of rights of Palestinians, Yemenis, and Bahrainis” and US sanctions on the Islamic Republic. He also challenged remarks by US Senators as “worthless, invalid, and cheap”.
On Friday night, Trump’s Twitter account circulated a statement by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
UPDATE 1040 GMT: Iran’s English-language State media continue to avoid any reference to the protests on Thursday and Friday.
Press TV had featured a post on Friday morning about 52 arrests in Iran’s second city Mashhad for an “illegal gathering”, but removed it by the afternoon.
This morning some outlets, such as Press TV and the conservative Tasnim, are trying to proclaim regime support. They are highlighting gatherings that commemorate the “2009 Massive Pro-Establishment Rally” as the regime suppressed the Green Movement after the disputed Presidential election.
Press TV declares, “Millions of Iranians across the country are commemorating the anniversary of the 2009 mass rallies that were held in support of the Islamic Republic and put an end to post-election unrest back then.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Iran’s regime is considering its response after a surge in protests across almost all the country’s cities on Friday.
There have been small demonstrations throughout the autumn, expressing frustration over inflation, unemployment, and corruption. On Thursday, they escalated with thousands turning out in Mashhad, Iran’s second city, and other areas in north, east, and central Iran.
Yesterday, thousands more Iranians were rallying in Kermanshah, Shiraz, Isfahan, Rasht, Qazvin, Ahvaz, and other cities. Only Tabriz was free from demonstrations, although the turnout in Tehran — where the provincial leaders are threatening a crackdown on any public dissent — was still limited to several dozen people.
See coverage and 15 videos in Iran Daily, Dec 29: Protests Spread Across Country, Challenge President and Supreme Leader
Claims circulated that the escalation of the protests were an unexpected response to an effort by hardliners to embarrass President Hassan Rouhani and his Government. Reformist outlets said the hardliners had hoped to unsettle Rouhani with a show of discontent, only for a cross-section of Iranians to take the opportunity to raise their grievances.
While economic issues were still highlighted in Thursday and Friday’s protests, they have been joined by political statements beyond the initial, provocative “Death to Rouhani”. In many cities, demonstrators shouted “Death to the Dictator”, a reference to the Supreme Leader, and “Don’t be afraid, we are all together”. Other chants called on Iranian leaders to focus on domestic matters and pull back from interventions in the region: “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I Give My Life for Iran” and “Leave Syria Alone! Take Care of Us”.
In Qom, the religious center of Iran, marchers defied Ayatollah Khamenei, “Leader Should be Ashamed and Leave the Country Alone”. In Shiraz, they shouted, “The mullah must get lost.”
Demonstrators face securty forces on Friday night — “We’ll die to get Iran back”:
"We'll die to get Iran back."
— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) December 29, 2017
Regime Searches for Its Line
Caught by surprise, the regime spent Friday trying to establish a response to the demands.
Some clerics, perhaps in league with hardliners, initially expressed support for the rallies. Ayatollah Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer Leader of Mashhad, said protesters were right to complain about lost savings: “Their protest, as well as other people’s reaction to high prices are unquestionably just.”
However, he immediately showed concern that the demonstrations had expanded, both in size and range of issues, complaining that the “West” will take advantage: “Is it right to prepare food for hostile media which have no tools to lambast us other than propagating sedition?”
The head of Mashhad’s Revolutionary Court echoed, “We consider protest to be the people’s right but if some people want to abuse these emotions and ride this wave, we won’t wait and will confront them.”
First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri tried to hold the line by warning that any support of “political action” on the streets will “backfire”, and asserting that “the political movements of the country — whether reformists, fundamentalists, or moderates — and all those who are concerned about Iran…[should] solve the problems of the country together”.
As he turned his attention to the protests, President Rouhani cancelled Saturday’s planned meetings with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and judiciary head Sadeq Larijani.
The Supreme Leader, who last publicly spoke on Wednesday with a ritual denunciation of the US and a warning to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has not issued a statement about the demonstrations.
The regime will hope for a show of strength on Saturday with marches — planned long before this week’s developments — to mark 9 Dey, the 8th anniversary of mass counter-demonstrations to suppress the Green Movement after the disputed 2009 Presidential election.