Iranian authorities have restricted access to the Internet and to social media including WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram after an outbreak of civil unrest across the country that started on December 28 in Mashhad, capital of the northeastern province of Khorasan.
By December 29, the demonstrations had spread to other cities including Tabriz [capital of East Azerbaijan Province], Khoy [West Azerbaijan Province], Chabahar [Sistan and Baluchestan Province], Aligudarz [Lorestan Province], Shahreza [Isfahan Province] and Tuyserkan [Hamadan Province.] There were many reports of clashes between the protesters and riot police.
Across the capital Tehran, riot police and state security were out in force. The largest protests were held at the Valiy-e Asr intersection, one of the city’s main thoroughfares; on Enqelab street, a major axis route; and Karegar street, one of Tehran’s longest streets.
The Tehran Metro was closed temporarily on Sunday night. Crowd-control police units used water canons to disperse the protesters at the Valiy-e Asr intersection. Despite the heavy presence of security forces, many protesters remained on the streets in Tehran Pars, in the northeast of the city (part of greater Tehran).
Videos posted on social media showed clashes between protesters and security forces in Khorramabad, Aligudarz and Dorud in Lorestan Province. Two people were reportedly killed in the city of Dorud. Other video clips showed people burning banks and credit institutions in the province.
There were reports of heavy clashes between security forces and protesters in the city of Kermanshah, capital of Kermanshah Province. Riot police were able to disperse the protesters in Azadi Square and Nobahar Boulevard.
Sistan and Baluchestan is one of the poorest and least populated provinces in Iran. Protesters in Chabahar chanted angry slogans against the Islamic Republic and the [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei. “This massive army of people is here to oppose the leader,” a group of protesters cried out. Another group shouted: “Freedom, independence, Iranian Republic.”
Security forces were unable to intimidate or dissuade protesters in a number of major cities around the country, such as Tabriz, Shiraz [capital of Fars Province], Mashhad and Isfahan. People also marched in smaller towns including Asadabad in Hamadan and Nurabad in Lorestan.
Iranian authorities have taken a tough stance against the protesters, hoping to discourage further unrest. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi ordered the Revolutionary Court judges to deal severely with those protesters who have been arrested.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani said: “We’ll hold those who have broken the law responsible.” Despite stern warnings by the authorities, people continued to protest for more than four days.
The reformists initially blamed critics of the government, the conservatives and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC] for the protests. They changed their position after hearing protesters chanting “Reformists, conservatives, this is the end of your story.”
By accusing foreign enemies, Saudi Arabia, Israel and U.S. President Donald Trump of plotting against the regime, the reformist government is trying to deflect criticism of its failure to tackle unemployment, the high cost of living and social injustice.