Protests rocking Iran that began as an outcry over economic issues have metastasized into demonstrations against a host of issues, including the regime’s support for Palestinian causes while ignoring problems at home.
The protests began in the second city of Mashhad on Thursday as an attack on high living costs but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole.
There have been reports of chants in favor of the monarchy toppled by the Islamic revolution of 1979, while others have criticized the regime for supporting the Palestinians and other regional movements rather than focusing on problems at home.
The slogan “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I Give My Life for Iran” has been repeated in protests across the country, which stretched into a third day Saturday.
People of Mashhad shout "No Gaza, No Lebanon, our lives are devoted to Iran" protesting Iran's Islamic regime for financially supporting terrorist groups such as #Hezbollah and #Hamas pic.twitter.com/Ed7YaqBwxK
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 28, 2017
In the northeastern city of Sabzevar, a protest was disrupted when a small group of demonstrators began chanting “forget Palestine,” The New York Times reported, quoting hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, who called the chants “norm-braking.”
Israeli leaders have seemingly attempted to glom onto the idea, focusing on Iranian support for the Palestinian Hamas terror group as tensions with Gaza intensified over the weekend.
On Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said mortar shells fired at Israel a day earlier had been supplied by Iran.
Hours later, the Israeli army accused Iran of attempting to spark a war between Israel and Gaza terror groups and putting the lives of Palestinians in danger, following a retaliatory raid.
Iran has boasted of its support for the Palestinians, particularly Hamas. In August, Hamas in Gaza leader said Iran had become “the largest backer financially and militarily” of the terror group’s armed wing.
He added that with Iran’s help, Hamas is accumulating military power in preparation for a battle for “the liberation of Palestine,” referring to missile technology as well as other arms.
Iran also openly supports armed movements in Syria and Iraq and is accused of backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen, including supplying them with missiles and other arms.
At the same time, the regime has continued to use opposition to Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia as a cudgel in deflecting attention from the protests, which Tehran has described as a domestic matter. Signs reading “Down with Israel” featured prominently at a pro-regime rally in Tehran Saturday and many there spoke out against the US.
Mohsen Araki, a Shiite cleric who serves in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, praised Rouhani’s efforts at improving the economy. However, he said Rouhani needed to do more to challenge “enemy pressures.”
“We must go back to the pre-nuclear deal situation,” Araki said. “The enemy has not kept with its commitments.”
Ali Ahmadi, a pro-government demonstrator, blamed the US for all of Iran’s economic problems.
“They always say that we are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?” Ahmadi asked.
Agencies contributed to this report.