JEDDAH: Iranians chanted slogans against the regime during protests in the country’s second most populated city on Thursday.
They were demonstrating against high prices and corruption and mismanagement.
A Reuters report said videos on social media showed demonstrators in Mashhad in northwest Iran chanting “Death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “Death to the Dictator.”
The semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reported demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.
Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Center of Iran, up 1.4 percent from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless.
Mashhad Gov. Mohammed Rahim Norouzian was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying that “the demonstration was illegal but the police dealt with people with tolerance.”
Rouhani’s signature achievement, a deal in 2015 with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.
Many Iranians believe their economic situation has not improved due to corruption and mismanagement.
Videos posted on social media showed riot police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds.
According to Reuters, demonstrators also chanted “leave Syria, think about us,” criticizing Iran’s deployment of troops to support the Bashar Assad regime against the uprising that began in 2011.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar in Riyadh, said the demonstrations were a clear signal of the Iranian people’s frustration with regime policies.
“The anger is boiling over on the street because the people are seeing that their government is pouring billions of dollars into creating and nurturing militias in neighboring countries with a view to inciting trouble in the region,” he told Arab News. “The Iranian people have seen through the regime’s game.”
Al-Shehri said Iran's leadership was taking the country and its people on a suicidal path. “They just want to ignites fires in different countries; they want to destabilize the region; they are playing with fire,” he said. “However, those who play such dirty games should realize that this would backfire on them and these demonstrations are indeed a clear example of how things are building up against the regime.”
He said any other government would have used the billions of dollars unlocked after the nuclear deal with the West for the betterment of its people. “But for the Iranian regime, the welfare of its people comes second, mischief comes first,” he said. “So the dollars went into supplying arms and missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen and sending its men to become cannon fodder in Syria.”
He said it was a tragedy and “the world community should come to the rescue of the Iranian people who are paying a heavy price for the criminal misdeeds of its highly irresponsible leadership.”