52 arrested at anti-government rally in Iran

Iranian official says 52 people were arrested in protests against high prices in Mashhad.

Elad Benari, Canada,

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Flag of Iran
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An Iranian official said on Friday that 52 people had been arrested in the previous day's protests against high prices in the second city of Mashhad, AFP reported.

Hundreds took to the streets of Mashhad, a site of holy pilgrimage in the northeast of the country, on Thursday with slogans mostly directed at President Hassan Rouhani's government for failing to tackle a range of economic problems.

Calls of “Death to Rouhani” and “Death to the dictator” could be heard in videos published from the protest.

In addition, the protesters chanted "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to anger in some circles that the government is focusing on the wider region rather than improving conditions at home.

The head of Mashhad's revolutionary court, Hossein Heidari, said on Friday that the 52 people were arrested for chanting "harsh slogans".

"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," Heidari said, according to AFP.

Similar yet smaller protests reportedly took place in a few other cities, responding to calls on the Telegram messaging service for a day of demonstrations to say "No to high prices".

On Friday, reported The Associated Press, Iranians again gathered in Tehran and another major city, to protest against Rouhani's government.

Around 300 protesters gathered in the western city of Kermanshah, the scene of a devastating earthquake in November that killed over 600 residents. In Tehran, fewer than 50 people protested at a public square, according to AP.

The protesters in Kermanshah reportedly chanted anti-government slogans such as "never mind Palestine, think about us", "death or freedom" and "political prisoners should be freed." They damaged some public property before police dispersed them.

Rouhani, who is touted as a “moderate” reformist, won a second term in office last May thanks in part to his promise of rebuilding the economy, shattered by years of sanctions and maladministration.

While he has succeeded in bringing inflation down to single digits from highs of more than 40 percent under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the economy is still struggling from lack of investment, with unemployment officially at 12 percent and likely much higher in real terms.

Before the May election, Rouhani came under fire from his hardline opponents over his failure to revive Iran's stagnant economy. He fired back, saying their era of "violence and extremism" was over.

Under Rouhani's presidency, Iran has set new records in the number of executions, many for political or religious "crimes". He has also done little in the way of freeing reformist political leaders who were jailed after protesting the 2009 election.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)


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