Iranians protest at corrupt clerics as inflation soars

Iran president supports protesters' rights

Prior to the latest unrest, there had been small but nearly daily protests in numerous cities by people who have lost their life savings due to private banks and investment companies going bankrupt. They damaged some public property before police dispersed them. Fars did not name any opposition groups.

It came a day after 52 people were arrested in Mashhad, an important pilgrimage site, for protesting high prices and the poor state of the economy under President Hassan Rouhani.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators yelling, "The people are begging, the clerics act like God".

Large numbers reportedly turned out in Rasht, in the north, and Kermanshah, in the west, with smaller protests in Isfahan, Hamadan and elsewhere.

State media quoted Mohsen Hamadani, a deputy governor of Tehran Province, as saying that law enforcement agencies would take tough measures against any gatherings in the wake of the protests in Mashhad.

Many Iranians now say they agree with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's repeated warnings the USA can't be trusted.

In social media footage, riot police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds.

Iran's senior vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri said Friday that some political factions are using the economy as an excuse to attack the government, pointing to external influences behind the protests. Pro-reform rivals said the vote was rigged.

"The shadow of stagnation in Mashhad and Khorasan Razavi province is more than other places in the country due to the unfortunate investment events in companies such as Padideh, Mizan Financial Institution and other credit funds", a senior housing official in the province told IRNA previous year.

The biggest protest was on Thursday was in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, a religious wealthy and conservative city.

The arrests in Mashhad were for chanting "harsh slogans", officials said.

More provocatively, there were also chants of "Death to the dictator" and "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran" - a reference to anger in some circles that the government is focusing on the wider region rather than improving conditions at home. "Those who are behind such events will burn their own fingers. They think they will hurt the government by doing so", he warned.

Rouhani's government has faced criticism since his May re-election from both hardline opponents and disillusioned supporters, who had been expecting a broader economic recovery following the country's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and easing of global sanctions.

Iran's inflation rate was recorded at 9.9 percent in December 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mashhad was among the areas hardest hit by the closure of Mizan, which had around one million accounts, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"Death to the dictator!" and "Death to Rouhani" are chants heard in at least eight Iranian cities, and the movement appears to be spreading.

She added that the four decade record of the mullahs' rule has been nothing but inflation, poverty and corruption, torture and execution, killings and aggression.

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