Demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans in several cities across Iran, Iranian news agencies and social media reports said, as price protests turned into the largest wave of demonstrations since nationwide pro-reform unrest in 2009.
Police dispersed anti-government demonstrators in the western city of Kermanshah as protests spread to Tehran and several other cities on Friday, a day after rallies in the northeast, the semi-official news agency Fars said.
The outbreak of unrest reflects growing discontent over rising prices and alleged corruption, as well as concern about the Islamic Republic’s costly involvement in regional conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq, says a Reuters report.
An official said a few protesters had been arrested in Tehran, and footage posted on social media showed a heavy police presence in the capital and some other cities.
Washington condemned the arrests. “The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including their right to express themselves,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The US State Department in a separate statement urged “all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”
About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars said was a “call by the anti-revolution.”
They shouted: “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, and some public property was destroyed. Fars did not name any opposition groups.
The protests in Kermanshah, the main city in a region where an earthquake killed over 600 people in November, took place a day after hundreds rallied in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad to protest at high prices and shout anti-government slogans.
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators yelling, “The people are begging, the clerics act like God.”
Fars said there were protests in the cities of Sari and Rasht in the north, Qazvin west of Tehran and Qom south of the capital, and also in Hamadan in western Iran. It said many marchers who wanted to raise economic demands left the rallies after demonstrators shouted political slogans.