Iran entered its third day of protests as furious citizens took to the streets to rail against the regime they blame for devastating the country’s economy.
Protests have broken out in a number of cities this week over the dramatic drop of the country’s currency and other economic problems ahead of the imposition of renewed US sanctions.
Videos shared online purportedly show some furious Iranians burning tyres and setting fire to police vehicles as demonstrations spun out of control.
Referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, many chanted ‘death to the dictator’ at protests.
‘The nation is forced to beg while the leader lives like God,’ was also among the furious chants against the Iranian regime at protests, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a political organisation founded to oppose the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, about 200 people demonstrated in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported.
Police said the demonstrators had attempted to damage public buildings, but were unable to.
In videos circulated on social media and purporting to have been taken in the town of Gohardasht, a suburb of Karaj, dozens of demonstrators can be seen in the streets, setting fire to police vehicles and shouting ‘death to the dictator.’
Police responded with tear gas.
Another video purportedly from Isfahan in central Iran showed protesters setting tyres ablaze in a bid to evade arrest.
The authenticity of the videos could not immediately be verified.
‘Scattered protests’ of a few hundred people were reported by state news agencies on Thursday, which police had brought under control.
About 100 people took to the streets in the northern city of Sari, as well as unspecified numbers in the cities of Shiraz, Ahavz and Mashhad, IRNA said.
Videos posted on social media have shown days of demonstrations in Isfahan and minor protests in the capital on Thursday night.
So far, they have not been on the scale of the violent unrest that gripped dozens of towns and cities in December and January.
But anxiety is everywhere, especially over the collapse of the rial, which has lost nearly two-thirds of its value in six months.
‘We are seeing protests and they will continue,’ Adnan Tabatabai, head of the CARPO think tank in Germany, told the media.
‘The establishment knows they are legitimate but my biggest concern is they will be hijacked by groups inside and outside the country and turn violent.’
All protests had taken place without official permission and were subsequently broken up by police, the agency said.
M. Hanif Jazayeri shared clips of angry chants from protesters in Karaj.
‘Mullahs must answer for wasting Iran’s wealth on terror,’ he added.
Maryam Rajavi, NCR’s president-elect, has said that Iran’s economy will not recover until the regime is toppled.
According to the NCR, the Iranian regime spent billions funding war in Syria and conflicts across the Middle East – as well as funding terrorism and supporting proxy groups ‘that carry out criminal activities on its behalf.
Mrs Rajavi says the disastrous state of the economy in Iran is a direct result of the regime’s policies.
‘Protesters will not rest until the Iranian people and the nation are free,’ she said.
She added: ‘Iran’s risen and revolting cities are joining the protests, one after the other.
‘The cry for freedom is becoming louder, and the uprising is expanding more and more every moment.
‘There is no force more powerful than the united force of young people.’
After protests broke out on Tuesday, she said: ‘Today, the world can see that the voice of Iranians cannot be silence despite massive repression, and their uprisings are carrying on until victory.
‘These are the blazing flames of resistance with over 100,000 martyrs, flaring up in the streets after forty years.’
The Iranian rial has dropped to a new record low amid growing concerns of renewed American sanctions, due to kick in on Monday.
Earlier, Iranian protesters had clashed with police outside parliament as the plunging rial triggered three days of protests last month in Tehran.
Iranians are hunkering down for the return of US sanctions with a run on gold and hard currency as they scramble to protect their savings, and sporadic protests over the already troubled economy.
Many wealthy Iranians are leaving the country, while others have been gripped by a bunker mentality, stocking up on provisions, dollars and gold in order to ride out the storm.
Customers were cheek-to-jowl in the narrow alleys of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar this week.
‘People are worried that if they don’t buy things today, they won’t be available tomorrow,’ said Ali, who runs a kitchen store in the bazaar, adding that wholesalers were hoarding new stock while they waited to see how the crisis unfolded.
Multinational firms that rushed to cash in three years ago – such as France’s energy giant Total and carmakers Peugeot and Renault – are already packing up.
A decision to fix the exchange rate in April and arrest unlicensed currency dealers backfired spectacularly and triggered a boom in the black market.
The consequences have sometimes felt absurd. One expat described having to meet a trader under a bridge in central Tehran to change $2,000 (1,700 euros).
‘He told me to wear a red scarf and came up to me whispering: ‘Show me the money’ like we were in a spy film,’ she said.
The US walked out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May and is bringing back ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions for most sectors on August 6, and the energy sector on November 4.
In May, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of a multilateral deal with Iran that was meant to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
Trump denounced the deal, concluded before he took office, as one-sided in Iran’s favour.
The US is bringing back ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions for most sectors on August 6, and the energy sector on November 4.
But on Monday, he declared that he would be willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with ‘no preconditions.’
Trump said that as renewed sanctions kick in, he expected Iran would call and offer to return to the negotiating table, and that ‘we’re ready to make a real deal.’
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 3rd, 2018