Iran hard-liners rally as new protests over economic system…

Tear gas appeared to have been fired at protesters at the University of Tehran

Tear gas appeared to have been fired at protesters at the University of Tehran

Authorities also reacted with force to the current wave of demonstrations - at least 21 people had been killed and hundreds arrested as The World Weekly went to press- but so far have refrained from the type of mass crackdown seen nearly a decade ago.

That's in contrast to the 2009 Green Movement demonstrations, which protested hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election amid widespread allegations of voter fraud.

President Trump's tweets on the ongoing Iran protests were immediate, have been daily and are likely to grow and transform into real change for Iranians.

The government "should not punish the guilty and the innocent alike", said Mohammad Hossein Vakili, a 20-year-old computer science student in Tehran who has struggled to find meaningful work and who joined in peaceful protests. Correspondents say it would be a significant escalation were they to become officially involved in policing the protests.

However, the current wave of protests, which started at the end of December, does not fit this pattern, as demonstrations against economic hardship quickly turned into the biggest anti-government protests Iran has witnessed in almost a decade.Hundreds of people took to the streets in the eastern city of Mashhad on December 28, where protesters voiced their anger at rising food prices.

Demonstrators initially focused on Iran's flagging economy.

Iran's supreme leader accused the country's enemies on Tuesday of being behind days of street unrest, as the death toll from anti-government demonstrations rose to 22, according to Reuters.

"Look at the recent days' incidents", Khamenei said.

The pro-government crowds included women wearing the all-encompassing black chador, the occasional man in military fatigues and Shiite clerics wearing black turbans identifying them as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

The pro-government rallies are taking place in Qom, Arak, Kermanshah, Ahwaz and other Iranian cities. State TV said the demonstrations served as an "answer to the protests", which it blamed on "servants of the U.S".

While several senior officials said there was concern that prolonged unrest would damage the legitimacy and influence of the country's religious leaders, few insiders see the unrest as an existential threat to that leadership, which has ruled since the 1979 revolution and is now controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran's system of dual clerical and republican rule.

U.S. President Donald Trump backed Iranian demonstrators in Twitter posts on Sunday and Monday. Tensions between the United States and Israel on one side and Iran on the other have reached new heights since Mr. Trump took office in January 2017.

He added: "You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!"

The Iranian people have endured decades of political repression by an autocratic, Islamist government.

"Big protests in Iran". Rouhani's office did not mention the comment.

But even as he attempted to mollify protesters, authorities said they blocked Instagram and the messaging app Telegram on Sunday in a move aimed at blunting the demonstrations.

One showed protesters in Shahinshar, 315 kilometers (200 miles) south of Tehran, throwing objects at a base of the Basij, a volunteer force affiliated with the paramilitary Guard.

"We have no information yet whether it was protesters or the police that fired yesterday [Sunday] and the issue is under investigation", the report quoted him as saying.

"People of Izeh, like some other cities, held a protest against economic problems and unfortunately it led to the killing of two people and injuries to some others", the area's MP, Hedayatollah Khademi, told the ILNA news agency.

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