TEHRAN/PARIS: Iranian police said on Friday they forcefully dispersed a protest by a crowd chanting “norm-breaking” slogans in the southwest of the country over economic hardships.
“Following a call, a small number of Behbahan city’s people gathered at 9 p.m. on Thursday to protest the economic situation,” Behbahan city’s police chief Col. Mohammad Azizi said.
The police first tried to talk to the crowd “but not only did they not disperse but started shouting norm-breaking chants,” he said, a term usually used by Iranian authorities to refer to anti-system slogans.
Security forces broke up the protest with “firmness,” the police chief said, adding that “calm” was restored without casualties or damage to properties.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they arrested a number of “agitators” and also broke up a “terrorist group” on Thursday.
Those arrested in Mashhad city were “connected to anti-revolutionary groups” and had made calls for street protests.
In the city of Shiraz, members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), an exiled group which Tehran considers a “terrorist cult,” were detained preventing a “subversive operation,” the Guards said.
Unverified social media posts showed images and videos of dozens of people apparently gathered in a street of the city in Khuzestan province.
Netblocks, a website that monitors shutdowns, said internet access was restricted and disrupted for about three hours in Khuzestan around the time of the protest.
Iran’s economy has shrunk significantly since 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed punishing sanctions on the country.
Meanwhile, an exiled Iranian opposition group on Friday held its annual conference online to press for “uprising” and regime change in Tehran.
With prominent supporters from Europe and the US, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is outlawed by Iran, held a physical meeting of just a few dozen at its base in Albania, but said thousands more joined in online.
The event at its base of Ashraf 3 in Albania was addressed in person by the NCRI’s France-based leader Maryam Rajavi who stood in front of conference delegates but also a bank of hundreds of screens as guests dialled in from outside.
“Our first commitment is that we, the Iranian people and the Resistance, will overthrow the clerical regime and will reclaim Iran,” she said.
“The final word is that the mullahs have no solutions and their regime is doomed to fall in its entirety,” she said.
Rajavi claimed the organization had sympathizers on the ground working to record the events in Iran saying: “These activities serve as the spark for the uprising. They sacrifice their lives to keep ablaze the flame of uprising.”
Echoing Rajavi’s message were foreign speakers who included British MP Matthew Offord, French MP Philippe Gosselin and former Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga.
But the star attraction was US President Donald Trump’s lawyer and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani who had repeatedly appeared at NCRI events.
“This regime is on the brink right now,” he declared via Zoom. “Regime change in Iran is within reach. Don’t listen to the pessimists,” he said.