Death Toll Rises in Iran as Anti-Government Protests Continue

Sunday, 14 Jan, 2018

Trump's first reaction came Friday night on Twitter: "Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime's corruption & its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism overseas". More than 400 others were arrested. Southern California is home to the largest Iranian community outside Iran.

A man and his young son also died on Sunday when a fire truck hijacked by protesters ran them down on a street in western Iran's Dorud, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

"These are people who probably voted for Ahmadinejad on populist slogans, who voted for Rouhani because they wanted to see political change", Hashemi said. The CIA joined the British in fomenting a coup against the elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh.

Iran's government has a history of repression, said an immigrant named Ali.

Inflation and unemployment, especially among younger Iranians, are on the rise.

The government has also blocked the popular social-media application Instagram and a widely used messaging app in Iran called Telegram.

"You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!" he tweeted, without offering any specifics.

The US State Department urged Tehran to restore access to any social media sites that had been restricted and urged Iranian security forces to exercise restraint.

Trump has repeatedly tweeted his support for the protesters in the past week, criticizing the Iranian government as repressive, "brutal and corrupt".

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, used her public platform to recite protesters' slogans and declared that "the people of Iran are crying out for freedom".

Muhammad Sahimi works at the University of Southern California.

The European Union said it was monitoring the situation and that it expected Iranians' rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression to be guaranteed.

He did not name the enemies but Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia were behind the riots.

President Hassan Rouhani has tried to play down the unrest, which began over economic grievances in second city Mashhad last Thursday but quickly turned against the regime as a whole with chants of "Death to the dictator".

Sahimi does not believe that the protests are as popular as those in 2009. Millions of people protested nationwide over the next few months, in what became known as the "Green Movement". But as the protests spread, the clampdown intensified.

Los Angeles publisher Bijan Khalili blames mismanagement of the Iranian economy.

Trita Parsi, author of Losing an Enemy - Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy, told Sky News that Mr Trump's messages of support were likely "insulting" to Iranian protesters given his record of action against the country, which includes crippling economic sanctions, a travel ban, and a refusal to certify a nuclear deal which had eased economic pressure on Iran.

If he reimposes sanctions on oil, it could increase the economic pain for Iran's leaders.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, in a Twitter post, said the Trump administration with its condemnation of Iran and the nuclear deal over the previous year has squandered an opportunity to bolster reformists in Iran and promote peaceful political change. Iran's success in the region was unbearable to them. "Hopefully, peacefully, they (will) get what they want", he says.

Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum think tank, said that if the protests "lead to regime change, they will have enormous implications for Israel, the Middle East, the Muslim world and beyond". "We're in the 21st century. Not good!" he said.

Trump says it is "time for change" in Iran.

Activists have taken to the streets of nearly every province in Iran, protesting the nation's weak economy, rises in food prices and failures in government.

VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reported this story from Los Angeles.