Tuesday 24 April 2018

Clerics keep grip on power as Iran labels US move a blunder

A demonstrator waves a huge Iranian flag during a pro-government rally in the northeastern city of Mashhad (Nima Najafzadeh/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
A demonstrator waves a huge Iranian flag during a pro-government rally in the northeastern city of Mashhad (Nima Najafzadeh/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Amir Vadhat

Iran's state TV yesterday showed government supporters rallying a day after the foreign minister said a US move to call an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss anti-government protests was another Trump administration "blunder".

The state broadcaster showed pro-government rallies in several cities, starting with Amol, in the northern province of Mazandaran, with hundreds of people waving the Iranian flag and chanting slogans against the US and Israel.

State TV described the rally as a "response to rioters and supporters of the riots".

Other pro-government demonstrations were held in Shahin Dezh, in West Azerbaijan province near Turkey; the city of Semnan; and Shadegan, in the south near Iraq.

The rallies are meant to be a show of force against anti-government protests that broke out in Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, on December 28 and have since spread to other cities and towns. The protests were sparked by a hike in food prices amid soaring unemployment. Some demonstrators have called for the government's overthrow.

At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested. Large pro-government rallies have been held in response, and officials have blamed the anti-government unrest on foreign meddling.

Around 90 university students - 58 of them in the capital Tehran - have been detained since protests broke out. The whereabouts and circumstances of around 10 of those students is unclear, meaning it is not known which security body arrested them, where they are being held or what charges they face.

Yesterday, Iranians could access the photo-sharing site Instagram again after it was blocked for the past week. Iran suspended access to the messaging app Telegram, which was being used to publicise the protests. Twitter and Facebook were already banned.

The US called the UN meeting last Friday, portraying the protests as a human rights issue that could spill over into an international problem.

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter after the session that the Security Council "rebuffed the US' naked attempt to hijack its mandate."

He said the majority emphasised the need to fully implement the 2015 nuclear deal and to refrain from interfering in the affairs of other countries.

Sunday Independent

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