Iran: Pro-government rallies held nationwide as elite guard says protests are over

Sara Shayanian
Iranian clerics take part during a state-organized rally against anti-government protests in the country, in the holy city of Qom. Photo by Ali Marizad/EPA
Iranian clerics take part during a state-organized rally against anti-government protests in the country, in the holy city of Qom. Photo by Ali Marizad/EPA

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Iranians held nationwide pro-government rallies backing the Islamic establishment Wednesday, while the revolutionary guard says anti-government protests are over.

Thousands poured out in several cities, including Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Bushehr, Abadan, Gorgan and Qom, to participate in mass rallies while chanting pro-government slogans and holding banners and national flags, Iran's state-owned Press TV reported.


The pro-government participants also condemned Israel, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump and the United States, after Trump tweeted support of anti-government protesters.

In response to Trump's comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran's stability would come from its own people, not foreign "infiltrators."

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"Iran's security and stability depend on its own people, who - unlike the peoples of Trumps regional "bffs"-have the right to vote and to protest. These hard-earned rights will be protected, and infiltrators will not be allowed to sabotage them through violence and destruction," Zarif tweeted on Tuesday.

Iranians in other cities plan to rally for the government on Thursday and Tehran residents will come out in support of Iran's regime on Friday.

That comes after a peaceful protest last week beginning in Mashhad over economic grievances, unemployment and a surge in food prices quickly turned violent -- leaving more than 20 dead.

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Meanwhile, Iran's Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said the "sedition" has ended and "the enemies should know that threats against Iran's defense and security no longer work" -- declaring an end to the anti-establishment unrest.

"There a sense that the situation may be settling down, though it doesn't necessarily mean a return to normality," Vincent Eiffling, an Iran researcher at the Belgium-based Centre d'Etudes des Crises et des Conflits Internationaux, told Bloomberg. "The establishment is busy taking back the streets with the pro-government demonstrations."

The latest protests are the largest Iran has seen since its disputed 2009 presidential election.

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The Iranian regime has shut down social media apps used to help organize rallies, such as Telegram and Instagram, and slowed Internet connections.

Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the protests on Iran's "enemies."

"Look at the recent days' incidents," Khamenei said. "All those who are at odds with the Islamic Republic have utilised various means, including money, weapons, politics and [the] intelligence apparatus, to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution."

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