TEHRAN, Iran — Hundreds took to the streets of Iran’s second-largest city Mashhad and other towns on Thursday to protest high prices and unemployment, a reformist media group reported.
The protests were mostly directed at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government, the Nazar media network reported.
“The demonstration was illegal yet the police confronted them with a lot of tolerance,” Mashhad governor Mohammad Rahim Norouzian said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Videos on Nazar’s Telegram channel showed people in Mashhad, an important religious center in the northeast of Iran, chanting “Death to Rouhani.”
— Iran Freedom (@4FreedominIran) December 28, 2017
But they also showed chants of “Death to the dictator” and “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 Mashhad governor said a number of people were arrested for “trying to damage public property.”
يذكر السيدة مريم رجوي في رسالة مريم رجوي بمناسبة بدء العام الدراسي في #إیران شجعت الشعب الإيراني وخاصه الطلاب الجامعات قائلة: ” وعليكم أن تحاصروا هذا النظام البائد بتصعيد احتجاجاتكم ومقاومتكم. #Neishabour #Kashmar #Shahroud #Noshahr #mashad #Protest #Iran #HumanRights #مشهد pic.twitter.com/b12duXCvql
— إيران الحرة (@IranAlhurra) December 28, 2017
Nazar also reported smaller protests in Yazd in southern Iran, Shahroud in the north and Kashmar in the northeast.
Videos appearing to show protests in Neyshabour, near Mashhad, were also shared on social media.
On Thursday,people in #Mashhad,#Iran held a major demonstration in the Martyr’s Square in protest to the high cost of goods and commodities and the rise in the daily price of items
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) December 28, 2017
— الشرق الأوسط – إيران (@aaa_iran) December 28, 2017
— ایران آزادی (@iranazadi1395) December 28, 2017
Now: Thousands Rally in Mashhad (NE of #Iran) Protesting Poor Living Conditions shouting "You made Islam alive but you made people poor". Last week #Iran|ians started protesting regime because of poor living conditions in #Tehran. Now these protests have spread to other cities. pic.twitter.com/SLeM7emRks
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 28, 2017
“It’s not clear what person or group has organized these protests but most of the slogans are against Rouhani,” wrote Payam Parhiz, Nazar’s editor-in-chief, in a tweet.
A message calling for “No to high prices” protests was circulated recently on Telegram, he wrote in another tweet.
The promise of rebuilding the economy — shattered by years of sanctions and maladministration — has been the central plank of Rouhani’s government since he first won power in 2013, and helped him win a second term in May.
He has succeeded in bringing inflation down to single digits — from highs of more than 40 percent under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But the economy is still struggling from lack of investment, with unemployment officially at 12% and likely much higher in real terms, according to analysts.