Iran protests turn violent on third day of demonstrations

Protests in Iran took a violent turn on Saturday, with reports of some demonstrators being shot, as thousands took to the streets for a third day refuting economic conditions, personal freedoms and denouncing President Hassan Rouhani.

Iranian students clash with riot police during an anti-government protest around the University of Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30. Photo by STR/EPA-EFE
Iranian students clash with riot police during an anti-government protest around the University of Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30. Photo by STR/EPA-EFE

According to social media reports and a video verified by BBC, two protesters in the western Iran town of Dorud were shot, but their conditions were not reported. Other videos show protesters torching a police vehicle and there are reports of attacks on government buildings, despite a warning by Iran’s interior minister to avoid “illegal gatherings.”

Protesters in central Iran set fire to headquarters of the pro-government Basij militia in Arak, and in northern Iran, demonstrators in Abhar reportedly set fire to large banners that bear a picture of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

Police and security forces in the capital Tehran are withdrawing as large numbers of protesters are converge on Azadi square.

Dozens were arrested during the protests and police used tear gas to disperse the crowds on Saturday, the same day as thousands of pro-Iranian government supporters gathered in Tehran for an annual rally in support of Iran’s ruling clerics.

President Donald Trump condemned Iranian actions through a series of tweets on Saturday, calling the country’s leaders “corrupt” and saying the “oppressive regime” would not last forever. Another tweet by Trump said “the entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change.”

Iran officials fired back, saying the country “does not pay attention to the opportunistic claims made by U.S. officials,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, adding that Iranians could see through Trump’s “hypocritical support” for the protests.

By Susan McFarland