Up to a dozen people have reportedly been killed as anti-government protests in Iran turned increasingly bloody Sunday night and into Monday.
The demonstrations have been taking place in cities across the country since Thursday and armed protesters have tried to take over police stations and military bases, state TV reported Monday.
President Hassan Rouhani issued an ominous warning that his government would show “no tolerance” for those who stoke the fledgling protest movement.
Iran’s President and Judiciary Chief issued fresh comments Monday about the ongoing demonstrations.
The semi-official Fars News Agency reports that President Hassan Rouhani told a meeting with parliamentary committee heads that, “We believe what has been happening over the past several days may seem to be a threat, but it can be turned into an opportunity to see what the problem is.”
But State TV broadcast comments from Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani sounded anything but conciliatory. The country’s judiciary chief said, “Those who carry out acts of sabotage, riot and unrest, and set fire to public and private venues and properties, should be dealt with strongly.”
Reports of riot police turning water cannon on people was already hitting Twitter:
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) January 1, 2018
Protesters in Tehran were reportedly chanting “Death to Rouhani” and “Shame on you Khamenei, step down from power!”
People are also chanting, “Death to Rouhani”, “Shame on you Khamenei, step down from power”, “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to the Islamic Republic”. Protesters are tearing down the banners of Iran’s Supreme leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei. https://t.co/AzftcSuZmh
— Zing (@zingars) January 1, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood up for Christians in Iran, blasting the Islamic regime for hypocrisy after one its leaders tweeted out a Christmas greeting even as the government raids Christian meetings and imprisons their leaders, CBN News reports.
Iran’s foreign minister sent out a tweet a few days before Christmas, including this message:
“A very happy and peaceful Christmas to all. May Christ’s universal message of peace be embraced in the coming year.”
Netanhayu took exception to the Christmas greeting from a representative of one of the world’s harshest persecutors of Christians.
“I wonder what the Christians jailed this month in Iran would think about that tweet,” he said in a taped message posted on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
President Trump got on Twitter Monday morning to deliver his latest criticism of Iran’s rulers, saying the people want food and freedom.
Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played down the significance of the protests on Monday.
“Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them,” he said Monday in a meeting with Iranian MPs. “This is nothing.”
The protests have stemmed from concerns about rising living costs and a stagnant economy, but have developed into a broader-based outcry against the regime’s stifling religious constraints, with government according to the dictates of Shariah law.
They are the most serious challenge to Tehran’s authority since the failed “Green Revolution” of 2009, when millions marched in the capital to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused by the opposition of being fixed.
That uprising was met with a brutal government crackdown.
According to a report by CNN, Authorities have yet to launch a wide-ranging crackdown in the current protests, preferring instead to contain the protests locally.
Two were shot dead Sunday in the southwestern city of Izeh, the area’s local member of parliament, Hedayatollah Khademi, told the semi-official ILNA news agency. Khademi said he did not know whether the shots were fired by security officials or protesters, according to the report.
Izeh is in the oil-rich southern province of Khuzestan, just south of the Lorestan province where two other Iranians were killed in protests on Saturday evening.
The deputy governor of Lorestan province, Habibollah Khojastehpour, denied that security forces had fired any bullets, blaming “Takfiri” groups and foreign intelligence services for the clashes.
Another two people were killed Sunday in the city of Dorud after a fire engine was hijacked, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, citing the local governor.
Videos and photos posted on social media have shown groups of largely peaceful protesters criticizing the government and demanding freedom. Some videos have shown protesters clashing with police and vandalizing property.
Iranian authorities have moved to block popular social-media websites and apps that have been used by protesters to organize the rallies.