Death toll rises to at least 12 amid ongoing turmoil in Iran

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 1, 2018 at 11:59 AM
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Jan. 1 (UPI) -- At least a dozen people have died in four days of protests in Iran -- including 10 on Sunday night, state TV reported Monday.

In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the protests are bringing attention to economic problems in the nation and that leaders should "should listen to this voice and turn it into an opportunity."

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported several people have been injured since the protests began Thursday in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, on rising prices and financial corruption.

Mashallah Nemati, the governor of Doroud in Lorestan province, said two residents died Sunday in a car crash caused by rioters. He said a firefighting vehicle was seized by rioters and crashed into another car, in which a man and a young boy were killed, ISNA reported.

Two were shot dead in the southwestern city of Izeh, lawmaker Hedayatollah Khademi told the semi-official ILNA news agency. Khademi said he didn't know who fired the shots.

In Tehran's Engheleb Square, police used tear gas and water cannons.

Other demonstrations were reported in Kermanshah and Khorramabad in the west, Shahinshahr in the northwest and Zanjan in the north.

"Recent protests seem to be a threat, but they are actually an opportunity to see what the problem is," Rouhani said during a meeting with chairmen of the parliamentary committees. "All the protesters are not guided by foreign elements; a number of them are the people who came to the streets because of their problems."

The president said residents should be united in dealing with the problem.

"If we all get united, I have no doubt that the people will support us," he said. "If necessary, the people will pour into the streets to defend the system, however, it does not mean to ignore voice of criticism and protest.

"We should listen to this voice and turn it into an opportunity. We should see what the problem is and also what the solution is."

Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani called for a crackdown on "rioters" and "vandals," saying on state TV that "some individuals are exploiting the situation."

Some demonstrators have urged the ouster of Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. In some protests, women cast off their hijabs in defiance of the country's strict Islamic dress code and called for equal rights.

Activists have shared information about protests on social media. State-run media outlet IRIB reported that officials had temporarily restricted access to social media platforms Instagram and Telegram.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps warned protesters they will face the nation's "iron fist" if political unrest continues.

Since the protests began up to 400 people reportedly have been arrested, including 200 in Tehran on Saturday night.

The protests are smaller than the so-called Green Movement of 2009, when millions marched in the capital Tehran to protest the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least 30 people died and thousands were arrested.

U.S. President Donald Trump backed Iranian demonstrators in Twitter posts on Sunday and Monday.

"Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration," he wrote Monday. "The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"

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