Iran criticises US ‘blunder’ over UN meeting

Pro-government demonstrators take to Iranian streets following a week of unrest

 An Iranian woman attends a pro-government demonstration after the Friday prayer ceremony at the Imam Khomeini mosque in Tehran, Iran. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

An Iranian woman attends a pro-government demonstration after the Friday prayer ceremony at the Imam Khomeini mosque in Tehran, Iran. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

 

Thousands of government supporters staged rallies in Iran on Saturday, in a backlash against widespread anti-government protests that the clerical establishment has blamed on the country’s enemies.

Saturday’s show of support came a day after Iran’s foreign minister said a UN Security Council meeting called by the US to discuss the unrest had proved a “blunder” by the administration of US president Donald Trump.

State television showed rallies and marches in more than a dozen cities on Saturday, with demonstrators waving Iranian flags and chanting slogans including “Death to America”, “Death to Israel” and “Death to Britain”.

More than a week of unrest has seen 22 people die and more than 1,000 arrested, according to Iranian officials, in the biggest anti-government protests for nearly a decade.

The unrest has spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns as thousands of young and working-class Iranians voiced anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.

Residents contacted by Reuters in various cities said the protests had subsided in recent days, after the government intensified a crackdown by dispatching Revolutionary Guards forces to several provinces.

On Saturday, videos on social media showed a heavy police presence in cities, including Khorramabad in southwestern Iran, where protesters reportedly threw stones at riot police on Wednesday evening.

The anti-government protests have also drawn members of the educated middle-class that formed the backbone of a pro-reform revolt almost a decade ago.

The provincial governor in northeastern Mashhad, where the protests started, was quoted as saying on Saturday that 85 per cent of protest detainees there had been released after signing a pledge not to reoffend.

“Those with a criminal record, or those charged with sabotage such as setting fire to motorcycles or damaging public buildings, have been referred to judicial authorities,” governor Alireza Rashidian told the ISNA news agency.

Tehran University vice-president Majid Sarsangi said the university had set up a committee to track the fate of students arrested during the unrest.

“Our efforts at the university are aimed at co-operating with the relevant authorities to create the conditions for the return of the detained students to the university and their families in the shortest possible time,” Sarsangi told ISNA.

Detained students

Separately, a member of parliament said about 90 students had been detained, 10 of whom were still not accounted for.

“It seems that the total number of detainees is about 90. Ten students from universities in Tehran and some other cities are in an uncertain position, and . . . it is still unknown which body has detained them,” the news agency ILNA quoted reformist politician Mahmoud Sadeghi as saying.

Iran has several parallel security bodies and residents say arrests are often not immediately announced.

Videos that appeared on social media in recent days showed relatives of detainees gathering outside prisons seeking information about the fate of their loved ones.

In Europe, hundreds of Iranians held rallies on Saturday in support of the anti-government protests, in cities including London, Paris and Berlin.

About 400 people gathered in central Paris, and several hundred held a rally in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate with Iranian flags, drums and banners calling for regime change.

One of the protesters in Berlin, 18-year-old Pariya Kohandel Saleh, said her father was in jail in Iran for supporting the families of prisoners.

“Things should be good in Iran now the sanctions have been lifted, but the mullahs’ pockets are bottomless and everybody knows it,” she told Reuters.

A UN Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the situation in Iran turned into criticism of the US for requesting to meet on what some member states said was an internal issue for Iran.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “The UNSC rebuffed the US’s naked attempt to hijack its mandate . . . Another FP (foreign policy) blunder for the Trump administration.” – Reuters