DUBAI: Iranian police dis­persed anti-government pro­­testers in the western city of Kermanshah on Fri­day, the Fars semi-official news agen­­cy said, as protests spread to Tehran and apparently several other cities a day after rallies in the northeast.

The outbreak of regional unrest reflects growing discontent over rising prices and alleged corruption, as well as concern over the Isla­­­mic Republic’s costly invol­vement in regional conflicts such as Syria and Iraq.

An official said a few protesters were arrested in Tehran, and videos posted on social media showed demonstrations in a number of the country’s leading cities, which if verified would be the largest wave of protests in Iran since 2009.

Footage posted on social media showed a heavy police presence in Tehran and some other cities.

About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars called a “call by the anti-revolution” and shouted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, while destroying some public property. 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.

Footage, which could not be verified, showed protests in other cities including Sari and Rasht in the north, Qom south of Tehran, and Hamadan in the west.

Mohsen Nasj Hamadani, deputy security chief in Tehran province, said about 50 people had rallied in a Tehran square and most left after being asked by police, but a few who refused were “temporarily detained”, the ILNA news agency reported.

In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back wages.

“The slogans quickly changed from the economy to those against (President Hassan) Rouhani and the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” the resident said by telephone.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2017

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