Massive rallies in Iran to back regime

World | 4 Jan 2018

Tens of thousands gathered across Iran yesterday in a massive show of strength for the regime after days of deadly unrest, with state television showing vast crowds marching through several cities.

Chants of "Leader, we are ready" were heard as images showed thousands rallying in the cities of Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Gorgan and elsewhere. The demonstrators waved Iranian flags and pictures of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as placards saying "Death to seditionists."

There were few reports of anti-regime protests overnight after the political establishment closed ranks against the unrest since last week that has left at least 21 dead.

Washington continued to exert pressure on the Islamic republic, with its UN ambassador Nikki Haley calling for emergency UN talks to discuss the situation. Iran's leaders have said the protests, which began over economic issues on December 28 but quickly turned more radical, were part of a foreign plot to destabilize the regime.

"The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime," Khamenei said.

Even reformists, who backed the last major protest movement against alleged election-rigging in 2009, condemned the violence and the support it has received from the United States. But they also urged the authorities to address economic grievances that have fueled the protests.

Many have been turned off by the violence, which has contrasted with the largely peaceful marches in 2009.

But on the streets of the capital, there is widespread sympathy with the economic grievances driving the unrest, particularly an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent for young people.

Others rejected the official line that foreign powers were behind the unrest.

Meanwhile, there were only limited reports of violence and clashes in provincial areas.

That was in contrast with the previous two nights, when multiple deaths were reported across smaller towns, including six protesters killed during attacks on a police station in Isfahan province.

Agence France-Presse

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