3 Protesters Killed by Revolutionary Guards as Widespread Protests Shock Iran

December 30, 2017 Last Updated: December 31, 2017

Three Iranian protesters were shot and killed by the Revolutionary Guards on Saturday night, Dec. 30, at a rally in central Iran, according to the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network.

Iran did not officially confirm the murders, which reportedly took place in Doroud in central Iran.

Scores of videos posted on social media showed large-scale protests with thousands of participants in cities including Tehran, Kermanshah, Zanjan, Arak, Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, Najafabad, Kashan, Ahvaz, Ardabil, Khorramabad, and others.

One of the videos showed a protester who appears to have been shot directly in the chest.

In another video, people in a crowd fleeing gunfire are seen carrying a wounded protester.

The anti-government protests broke out for the third day running on Saturday while separate state-sponsored rallies were staged to mark the end of unrest that shook the country in 2009, according to Iranian news agencies and state media.

Protesters in the city of Arak broke into and occupied a government compound, according to a video posted by Iran Wire.

The semi-official news agency Fars said up to 70 students gathered in front of Tehran University and hurled rocks at police. A social media video showed them chanting “Death to the dictator”, an apparent reference to Khamenei.

Footage later showed riot police clubbing and arresting the protesters. ISNA news agency said a group of government supporters also gathered outside the university as police tried to disperse protesters. Authorities closed two nearby metro stations “until the end of the unrest”, ISNA said.

Another video appeared to show security forces arresting demonstrators in another part of Tehran, with protesters shouting “Let him go! Let him go!”

In a further video, which could not be verified, marchers in the western town of Dorud chanted, “Death to the dictator”.

Dozens of protesters gathered in the western city of Shahr-e Kord, ISNA said. Social media footage appeared to show a protester being helped by his comrades after being teargassed.

President Donald Trump and his administration voiced support on Friday for protests in Iran and condemned the arrest of peaceful protesters.

“Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday evening, Dec. 29. “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! ”

The U.S. Department of State issued a strongly worded critique of the Iranian regime in a statement on Friday, saying that the country’s leaders “have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.”

In the same statement, the State Department echoed prior comments from Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asserting that the biggest victims of the Iranian regime are its own people and that the United States supports a peaceful transition of government.

Trump singled out Iran as the single biggest enemy to peace and prosperity in the Middle East in a speech during his state visit to Saudi Arabia in May this year.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Arab Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” Trump said. “It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”

Trump followed by urging “all nations of conscience” to isolate Iran, deny its funding of terrorism,  “and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

DISCONTENT

Openly political protests are rare in the Islamic Republic, where security services are omnipresent.

But there is considerable discontent over high unemployment, inflation, and alleged graft. Some of the new protests have turned political over issues including Iran’s costly involvement in regional conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq.

Joblessness has risen and annual inflation is running at about 8 percent, with shortages of some foods contributing to higher prices and hardship for many families.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli warned against attempts to promote protests via social media.

People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017, in this still image from a video obtained by Reuters

“We ask people not to take part in unlawful gatherings. If they plan a gathering they should apply (for a permit,” he told the Young Journalists Club news website.

On Thursday, hundreds of people took to the streets in Mashhad, one of the holiest places in Shi’ite Islam, to protest against high prices and shouted anti-government slogans. Police arrested 52 people, according to a judicial official.

The United States condemned the arrests, with President Donald Trump tweeting: “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

State media quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying in response: “The Iranian people see no value in the opportunistic claims by American officials and Mr. Trump.”

People protest near the University of Tehran, Iran, in this picture obtained from social media, on Dec. 30, 2017, (Twitter/@kasra_nouri/via Reuters)

Friday witnessed the largest wave of demonstrations since 2009 as protests spread to Tehran and other cities.

State broadcaster IRIB had not covered the protests “after being asked by relevant bodies that the issue should not be reflected on state radio and television”, its website quoted an unnamed official as saying.

MOST DETAINEES FREED

Most of those arrested in the last two days had been released, state TV said, without giving details.

“Enemy websites and foreign media continue to try to exploit economic hardships and the legitimate demands of the people in this respect to launch illegal gatherings and possible unrest,” it said.

The elite Revolutionary Guards and its Basij militia, which spearheaded the security crackdown that crushed the protests of 2009, said in a statement carried by state media: “The Iranian nation … will not allow the country to be hurt.”

Though purely political protests are seldom seen in Iran, demonstrations are often held by workers over lay-offs or non-payment of salaries and by people who hold deposits in non-regulated, bankrupt financial institutions.

President Hassan Rouhani’s leading achievement, a 2015 deal with world powers that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.

Unemployment has risen to 12.4 percent this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran, up 1.4 percentage points and leaving about 3.2 million Iranians jobless.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From NTD.tv