Protests against economic conditions turn to anti-government stir

Amidst anti-government protests in various cities in the country, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has clearly said that people are completely free to express their criticism of the government or stage protests within the limits of the Constitution and citizenship rights leading to the improvement of the country’s conditions.

While addressing a Cabinet session on Sunday evening President said “We are a free nation and based on the Constitution and citizenship rights, people are completely free to express their criticism and even their protest,” he said.

Rouhani further clarified that people have the right to voice their criticism with regard to all affairs saying, “We believe that the government and the country belong to the people and the people must properly express what they want.”

However, he emphasized that criticism is completely different from violence or inflicting damage on public property.  He said, “We must not allow an atmosphere to be created in the country under which supporters of the revolution and people will be concerned about their lives and security.”

Elsewhere during his address to the cabinet, which was broadcast live on official IRIB TV channels, Rouhani condemned US President Donald Trump’s comments about the ongoing protests.

He said, “This man who today in America wants to sympathize with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called the Iranian nation terrorist. This person who is against the Iranian nation from head to toe has no right to feel sorry for the people of Iran.”

While talking about the existing national security, peace and coherence, Rouhani said that  unity in Iran were the “biggest assets” of the country in the restive Middle East region and emphasised that people from all faiths  enjoyed peaceful coexistence in the country.

Protests erupted on Thursday in Mashhad, the second largest city and spread in others areas of the country. They were initially organised against the rising prices and unemployment but suddenly converted into anti-government protests. Slogans like “Down with Rouhani”, “Death to dictator” “No to Syria”,  “No to Gaza” and “No to Palestine” were also heard during the protests.

Some observers believe that the political slogans advising Iranian government not to involve in the regional issues: including in fight against terrorism in Syria and Iraq, were indicative of the foreign powers instigating the protests.

Iran has played active role in defeating Daesh (IS) and other terror groups in Syria and Iraq through its military advisors on the ground. Military operations in both the countries were recently halted after achieving success in getting various cities freed from the terrorists.

Meanwhile, AFP reports from Tehran on Monday that new protests were helt overnight despite President Hassan Rouhani calling for calm and vowing more “space for criticism”.

AFP quoting unverified social media  videos, reported that police has used tear gas and water canon to disperse a small protest in iconic Enghelab Square, close to the domestic Mehrabad airport. Protests were also reported from Izeh (southwest), Kermanshah and Khorramabad (west), Shahinshahr (northwest) and Zanjan (north).

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, on Saturday had denounced US “duplicitous and opportunist” support for the protests and condemned the “cheap, worthless and invalid” remarks by US officials.

He further said, “The Iranian people attach no value to the opportunistic remarks by American officials and Trump himself.”

Donald Trump posted his comments on the ongoing protests in Iran.