U.S. Condemns Arrest of Peaceful Demonstrators

Protests spread to several Iranian cities late on Friday, local media reported, in a rare display of public anger against the government of President Hassan Rouhani and its handling of the economy, Bloomberg reports.

One pro-government demonstrator, 27-year-old Ali Ahmadi, blamed the U.S for all of Iran’s economic problems. Officials say some 50 protesters have been arrested and President Donald Trump has tweeted out support for those protesting, The Washington Post reports.

In reaction to demonstrations leading to dozens of arrests in recent days, a senior government official lashed out at the Trump administration, blaming it for preventing Iranians from reaping the economic rewards of the country’s 2015 nuclear deal.

Police arrested 52 people in Thursday’s protests, according to a judicial official in Mashhad, one of the holiest places in Shi‘ite Islam, according to Reuters. The United States condemned the arrests, with President Trump tweeting: “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

State TV also aired its first reports on the protests Saturday, acknowledging some protesters chanted the name of Iran’s one-time shah, who fled into exile just before its 1979 Islamic Revolution, The Washington Post reports.

“Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos,” state TV said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department in a separate statement urged “all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”

About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars said was a “call by the anti-revolution.” They shouted: “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, and some public property was destroyed. Fars did not name any opposition groups, Reuters said.

The protests in Kermanshah, the main city in a region where an earthquake killed over 600 people in November, took place a day after hundreds rallied in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad to protest at high prices and shout anti-government slogans.

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