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Nine protesters killed overnight in Iran

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The Associated Press has reported that nine people have been killed overnight in protests in Iran.

Twenty two people have now been killed in five days of protests against the government of the Islamic Republic. The protests began in the city Mashhad on Thursday before spreading to Qom, Iran’s holiest city, and expanding to provincial towns Rasht and Khoramabad before spreading to Tehran. The Associated Press reports that hundreds of protesters have been arrested. It is the worst unrest in Iran since crowds took to the streets in 2009 to condemn the re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In response to the protests, on Sunday, the Iranian authorities blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging app ‘Telegram’ used by activists to organise.

US President Donald Trump said the “big protests” showed people “were getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I heard today Iran’s President [Hassan] Rouhani’s claim that Israel is behind the protests in Iran. It’s not only false. It’s laughable. And unlike Rouhani, I will not insult the Iranian people. They deserve better. Brave Iranians are pouring into the streets. They seek freedom. They seek justice. They seek the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades. Iran’s cruel regime wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate. This money could have built schools and hospitals,” Netanyahu said. “No wonder mothers and fathers are marching in the streets. The regime is terrified of them, of their own people. That’s why they jail students. That’s why they ban social media.”

Netanyahu also criticised European governments, saying many “watch in silence as heroic young Iranians are beaten in the streets. That’s just not right. And I, for one, will not stay silent”.

Yesterday evening the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson released a statement saying:  “The UK is watching events in Iran closely. We believe that there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this. We also believe that, particularly as we enter the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, people should be able to have freedom of expression and to demonstrate peacefully within the law. We regret the loss of life that has occurred in the protests in Iran, and call on all concerned to refrain from violence and for international obligations on human rights to be observed.”

Israel’s Channel 10 news broadcast a report by Barak Ravid about a leaked assessment from Israel’s Foreign Ministry that the Iranian regime was surprised by the mass protests and is now trying to contain it through preventive arrests and crackdown on social media – while trying to avoid violent response against protesters. The paper argued that protests emphasise the deep changes in Iranian society and the fact that part of it is distancing itself from the values of the Islamic revolution and demanding more openness. The paper says that the protests originally began over economic issues but very quickly “took a political and violent turn which included harsh anti-regime criticism over government spending on Syria, Lebanon and Yemen”.

The report does not consider the protests currently a threat to the regime’s survival “they weaken it, damage its legitimacy and if they continue they can threaten its stability” while “the radicalisation of the protests messages and the fact people took to the streets shows that the barrier of fear for the Iranian citizen started breaking”, many Iranians also fear that the protests might lead to chaos like in other countries in the region such as Syria.