Iran Daily: At Least 22 Dead as Supreme Leader Blames Foreign “Enemies” for Protests

Protest in Ahwaz in southern Iran, January 1, 2018

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See also Who are the Protesters in Iran?


UPDATE 1915 GMT: The reformist Association of Combatant Clerics, led by former President Mohammad Khatami, has supported the Goverment position:

Without doubt the Iranian people are confronted with difficulties in their daily lives… and have the right to peacefully demand and protest.

But the events of recent days have shown that opportunists and troublemakers have exploited the demonstrations to create problems, insecurity and destroy public buildings, while insulting sacred religious and national values.

The clerics said violence in the protests would help Iran’s “enemies”. It called on people to support “reformist methods” to deal with Iran’s problems.

Demonstrators in Hamedan in western Iran chant, “Khamenei is a murderer”:


UPDATE 1815 GMT: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterates the Government line on protests while jabbing at Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia:


UPDATE 1615 GMT: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has posted a chart of price rises in Iran in November-December, ranging from more than 4% for fuel to 14% for a range of food and drink to more than 21% for vegetables.


UPDATE 1530 GMT: Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari has insisted, “In most parts of the country, the situation is now normal and the unrest that took place in certain areas will soon end with the people’s cooperation and the efforts of security forces.”

Zolfaghari said police and security forces had exercised “maximum tolerance” to bring the situation under control, but “decisively countered the saboteurs”.

President Rouhani’s senior advisor Mohammad Baqer Nobakht told a press conference that the Government respects the right to protest under a legal framework.

He said Iran’s Constitution distinguishes between rioting and protesting without disrupting public security, but “even the rioters should be dealt with within the framework of law.”

Clashes tonight in Shiraz:

Protests in Tehran:

Clashes earlier in Tuysarkan in western Iran:


UPDATE 1320 GMT: Five independent labor organizations are demanding “an end to poverty and misery”, an end to repression and rights to organize and assemble for workers in Iran.

In interviews with AFP, Tehran residents describe financial struggles:


UPDATE 1315 GMT: Claimed footage (Warning — Graphic) of protesters shot Shahinshahr near Isfahan:

State media is framing most of the 22 deaths so far as the fault of “rioters”. It claimed six killed by security forces in Qahderijan had tried to storm a police station. “Armed rioters” were said to have killed an 11-year-old boy and injured his father in Khomeinishahr and to have slain a securityguard in Kahriz Sang.


UPDATE 1230 GMT: The Supreme Leader has spoken for the first time about the surge in protests across Iran.

Addressing families of Iran’s war dead, Ayatollah Khamenei blamed the rallies on outside powers: “During the events of the past several days, Iran’s enemies, using the various tools at their disposal, including money, weapons, politics, and security apparatus, have allied to create problems for the Islamic establishment.”

Khamenei insisted that “the spirit of courage, sacrifice, and faith” in the Iranian nation stood in the enemy’s way.

Unlike President Rouhani, the Supreme Leader did not acknowledge a right to protest or any of the issues raised by the demonstrations: Instead, he issued an implicit warning that Iran could succumb to the protests across North Africa and the Middle East from 2011, declaring the “woeful situation” of those countries who have been targeted by “foreign invasion”.

Khamenei tried to rally support by calling on the spirit of the 1980s war with Iraq, saying that if “enemies” had made it into the Islamic Republic, “they would have had no mercy and a situation considerably worse than that of Libya and Syria would have been created for Iran.”

He assured, “I have something to say on these events, and I will speak to the dear people when the time is right.”

KHAMENEI 02-01-18

The Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, pinned blame on Saudi Arabia. He proclaimed that 27% of Twitter hashtags on the protests were created by Saudis, saying that Riyadh has “recruited some foreigners to work in the organization, for they cannot do it themselves”.

Meanwhile, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court has warned that detained protesters may face the death penalty if they are put on trial.

Mousa Ghazanfarabadi said, “Obviously one of their charges can be Moharebeh” — waging war against God — which is a capital offense.

Ghazanfarabadi emphasized that attending rallies which are not sanctioned by the Interior Ministry is illegal. He said protesters could be charged with acting against national security and damaging public properties.


ORIGINAL ENTRY: At least 22 people have reportedly been killed as Iran enters a sixth day of protests across the country on Tuesday.

State media put out the death toll and said hundreds have been wounded. Regime outlets claimed a policeman was among the dead.

President Rouhani followed up his national address on Sunday with a declaration to legislators yesterday that the Islamic Republic will deal with a “small and minority group” of “rioters and lawbreakers” exploiting the protests over economic conditions and political and social issues.

“The enemy will not remain silent vis-à-vis the nation’s progress and greatness, but there are also deceived people among the protesters who have rightful demands,” he asserted.

In his Sunday speech, Rouhani had balanced his warnings against violence with an anknowledgement of the right to protest, On Monday he moved farther towards an emphasis on blame of “foreign powers”. He claimed “the enemies of Iran” could not tolerate Tehran’s diplomatic achievements, especially in a “confrontation” with the US and Israel, and said some had threatened to take regional problems into Tehran.

Rouhani did say that not all of those demonstrating were taking orders from foreigners, but were motivated by their “sentiments and problems”. He maintained that the Government could use the protests to build support for its economic policies: “I believe that what happened in recent days was apparently a type of threat, which should be turned into an opportunity.”

He assured, “Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing.”

Revolutionary Guards Insist Tehran is “Peaceful”

The Revolutionary Guards commander in Tehran insisted that Tehran “is peaceful”.

Brigadier General Mohammad Kowsari said, “We will not allow insecurity to continue in Tehran”; however, he proclaimed that the Guards have had no role in containing protests and that police are in charge and dealing with the situation.

Protests and clashes were reported in parts of the capital. Video showed security forces using water cannon to disperse people.

In Enghelab Square in Tehran — “Death to the dictator”:

There were larger gatherings in the area around Isfahan. Conservative media said a police officer was killed and three wounded by a man with a hunting rifle in Najafabad. Five protesters were said to have been killed in Qahderijan, with a crowd then attacking a government building.

Fuladshahr, near Isfahan:

Tear gas used against protesters in Shadegan in Khuzestan Province in western Iran:

In Zanjan in northwest Iran:

Detentions of activists are being reported, not only by colleagues by also by semi-offical media, who said some were behind a channel on the messaging application Telegram — now blocked by the regime, along with Instagram — to organize protests.

The Interior Ministry, saying that 90% of those in the protests are under 25, declared, “The unrest will be controlled more seriously from tonight.”

Many Iranians reported on Monday that they have received a text message from an unknown number threatening them with charges of “anti-revolutionary“ crimes if they participate in protests.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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