Pro-government rallies held in Iran after week of unrest

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Tens of thousands of government supporters took to the streets across Iran on Wednesday as authorities tried to project a sense of stability after a week of protests sparked deadly clashes and calls for the downfall of the Islamic Republic.

But even as state television aired footage shot from helicopters of the support for Iran’s clerically overseen government, videos emerged showing the anti-government unrest that has swept major cities has also spread to the countryside in the nation of 80 million people.

At least 21 people have been killed in the unrest and hundreds more have been arrested by authorities. Demonstrators’ videos corresponded with Associated Press reporting from outside of Iran, though individual activists remain unreachable and the protests for now appear leaderless. It was not clear if new protests were held Wednesday or if the videos showed earlier events.

The past week’s protests have been the largest since the disputed 2009 presidential election, which ended in bloodshed. While many Iranians denounce the violence that has accompanied some demonstrations, they echo the protesters’ frustration over the weak economy and official corruption.

The government “should not punish the guilty and the innocent alike,” said Mohammad Hossein Vakili, a 20-year-old computer science student in Tehran who has struggled to find meaningful work and who joined in peaceful protests.

“Why should they arrest someone like me when I protest the rise of the price of eggs?” he said.

The protests began Dec. 28 in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city and a bastion for hard-liners, initially focusing on Iran’s flagging economy and rising food prices. Now, they’ve morphed into demands for wholesale change in Iran’s theocratic government.

On Wednesday, state TV reported pro-government demonstrations in dozens of cities and towns, including Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, the Kurdish town of Kermanshah in the country’s west and Qom, the religious capital of Shiite Islam in Iran.

All those cities have seen protests in recent days.

The pro-government crowds included women wearing the all-encompassing black chador, the occasional man in military fatigues and Shiite clerics wearing black turbans identifying them as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Some claimed online that government employees had been instructed to take part, something Iranian media did not discuss.

The English-language Press TV broadcast Wednesday’s…

Read the full article from the Source…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *