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Clashes, Violence Reported At Iran Protests

A protest in the Iranian city of Zanjan.

Clashes have been reported between protesters and police on the third day of antiestablishment protests in Iran.

At least two protesters were shot by Iranian security forces in the western town of Dorud on December 30, according to a video posted on social media. RFE/RL could not verify the authenticity of the video.

The violence comes as separate state-sponsored rallies took place around the country to mark the end of the unrest that shook the country in 2009 following a disputed presidential election.

The antigovernment protests, the largest since 2009, were sparked by a surge in prices of basic food supplies, such as eggs and poultry.

They quickly spread to many cities where protesters have been chanting slogans against the Islamic establishment and the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Some have also chanted slogans against Iran’s foreign policy, including its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Social media postings said a third day of protests broke out on December 30 in cities including Tehran, Shahr-e Kord, Kermanshah, and Zanjan.

The Persian Service of the BBC reported that in some cities protesters set government buildings and police vehicles on fire.

The semiofficial news agency Fars said up to 70 students gathered in front of Tehran University and hurled rocks at police.

Amateur videos posted online appeared to show clashes at Tehran University where police forces reportedly used tear gas to disperse protesters.

"Seyed Ali [Khamenei] Shame On you. Leave The Country Alone," protesters chanted at the university according to a video sent to RFE/RL's Radio Farda from the Iranian capital.

In another video from Tehran, protesters appear to tear down a Khamenei poster.

Another video appeared to show security forces arresting a protester near a major square in Tehran, with people shouting "Let him go! Let him go!"

'Internet Distuptions'

The protests took place amid reports of Internet disruptions.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights In Iran said the government is making it difficult for Iranians to access the Internet.

"This means that the vast majority of Iranians cannot access mobile apps or websites or anything that has its servers outside Iran without very robust circumvention tools," the group said on Twitter.

Iran has slowed in the Internet during past protests in order to prevent the spread of information.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli issued a warning against promoting protests online.

"We ask people not to take part in unlawful gatherings, if they plan a gathering they should apply [for a permit], and it will be examined," Rahmani-Fazli told the Young Journalists Club news website.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Mashhad on December 28 to protest against high prices and shouted antigovernment slogans.

WATCH: Iranians In Eastern Cities Protest Over Economic Troubles (from December 28)

Iranians In Eastern Cities Protest Over Economic Troubles
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On December 29, police dispersed antigovernment demonstrators in the western city of Kermanshah as protests spread to Tehran and several other cities.

Dozens have been arrested during the two days of protests.

Trump: 'The World Is Watching'

The United States condemned the arrests, with U.S. President Donald Trump warning Tehran in a tweet that "the world is watching."

"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," Trump wrote on Twitter, echoing an earlier White House statement. "Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!"

Iran condemned Trump's tweet.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, was quoted on state TV on December 30 as saying that the "Iranian people give no credit to the deceitful and opportunist remarks of U.S. officials or Mr. Trump."

On December 30 , Trump lashed out at Tehran again by tweeting a clip of a scathing part of his speech to the UN General Assembly in September.

"The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran's people are what their leaders fear the most," Trump said in a tweet accompanying the clip, echoing parts of the speech.

"Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!" Trump added in a second tweet.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

On December 29, the State Department's spokeswoman said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was personally urging support for what he has described as "elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of government."

"We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption," said spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

The protesters got some encouragement from Iranian clergy as well.

"Their protests, as well as other people's reaction to high prices, are unquestionably just," said Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, a Friday prayer-leader and mid-ranking cleric in Iran's second-most populous city, Mashhad, where the protests began on December 28.

'Propagating Sedition'

But al-Hoda also questioned whether the protests weren't also providing "food for hostile media" whose goal is "propagating sedition," using terms often used to described independent news outlets.

In an unprecedented comment, the head of Mashhad's revolutionary court, Hossein Haydari, said: "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."

Iranians take to the streets of Mashhad on December 29 in one of several demonstrations in the country against increasingly high prices and other economic woes.
Iranians take to the streets of Mashhad on December 29 in one of several demonstrations in the country against increasingly high prices and other economic woes.

Other clerics condemned the protests as "anti-Islam" and said Israel and the United States were behind them.

But the demonstrators were urged on by the exiled former crown prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, who said that "the uprising, once again showed that overthrowing theocracy in Iran is a national demand."

Earlier on December 29 in Kermanshah, semiofficial news agencies Fars and Mehr reported that police dispersed a rally of some 300 people who chanted "Political prisoners should be freed" and "Freedom or death."

Unconfirmed reports say that that up to 50 people were arrested in a demonstration in Kermanshah on December 29, a day after hundreds protested against high prices and shouted political slogans in Mashhad.

Footage on social media showed protesters in Kermanshah's central Azadi Square chanting "Death to the dictator" and "The nation is struggling in poverty; the leader is trying to act as God."

Various chants appeared to target both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, without naming him, and President Hassan Rohani. Kermanshah was hit last month by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 600 people.

'Leave Syria Alone, Think About Us'

Similar protests were reported in several other cities, including Rasht, Ahvaz, Ghazvin, Qom, Esfahan, and Hamadan among others.

In Tehran, police arrested some 40 people who gathered for an unsanctioned rally, state media reported, quoting Hamadani.

Political rallies are rare in Iran, but demonstrations are often held over economic issues such as layoffs, nonpayment of salaries, and price hikes.

Fars reported that police arrested 52 people after December 28 rallies in Mashhad. The semiofficial Ilna news agency reported that there were smaller protests in Neyshabor, Kashmar, Yazd, and Shahrod on December 28.

Videos posted on social media showed some protesters in Mashhad chanting slogans including "Death to the dictator" and "Death to Rohani," with police using water cannons to push back the crowds.

Some others chanted "Leave Syria alone, think about us," condemning Iran's financial and military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces are fighting government opponents in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

'No To High Prices'

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency quoted Mohammad Rahim Norozian, the Mashhad governor, as saying there was an illegal "No to high prices" gathering in the city.

Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a Rohani ally, suggested that hard-line opponents of the president may have started the protests in Mashhad.

"When a social and political movement is launched on the streets, those who started it will not necessarily be able to control it in the end," IRNA quoted Jahangiri as saying.

"Those who are behind such events will burn their own fingers. They think they will hurt the government by doing so," he warned.

Prices on many essential products, including eggs, have increased up to 40 percent in recent days. Farmers have blamed the hikes on higher prices for imported feed.

According to Iran’s Central Bank, inflation in the country is running at about 10 percent.

Rohani's leading achievement, a 2015 deal with world powers that curbed Iran's disputed nuclear program in return for the lifting of most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.

Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent in this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Center of Iran, up 1.4 percent from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AP