Iran’s Rouhani vows for peaceful protests, rejects violence

Tehran, Jan 1 (IANS) Iran’s President has admitted that the Iranian people have the right to express themselves peacefully in his first comments on the anti-governmental protests.

“Iran is a free nation, and according to the constitutional laws, the people have the right to express their criticism and protest,” the state-run IRNA news agency cited President Hassan Rohani as saying.

However, Rohani said that the aim of these protests should be to improve the situation in the country and people’s lives.

Iran’s President also slammed the comments made by his US counterpart, Donald Trump, regarding the rallies.

“Anyone who calls the Iranian people terrorists does not have the right to sympathize for the people,” Rohani said.

Rohani made these remarks on Sunday during a cabinet meeting after four days of protests against price increases and corruption.

Two people died on Saturday in the western Iranian province of Lorestan during the protests, the deputy governor of the province Habibollah Khojastepour said.

Khojastepour said the death of the two civilians on Saturday night in the city of Dorud in Lorestan, adding that the authorities wanted to disperse the demonstrations peacefully, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

He alleged that “takfiris” (Sunni extremists) and foreign intelligence services had been involved in the protests in Dorud, which he characterized as riots.

Meanwhile at least 200 protesters were arrested Saturday in Tehran on charges of causing conflict and destroying property, Tehran city government security official Ali Asgar Naserbajt said.

Some of those arrested were later released, while others were remanded to custody, Naserbajt told the ILNA news agency.

Illegal rallies took place in Tehran and security forces were deployed to prevent harm to civilians, Naserbajt said.

Authorities have blocked access to certain social media networks following the protests that started on Thursday.

Messaging service Telegram and photo-sharing application Instagram stopped working in Iran after allegedly having been used to organise protests, and Internet connections were bad.

Deputy Interior Minister for Political Affairs Esmail Jabar Zada justified the use of “some tools” to curtail illegal rallies, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The measures are temporary and the government has no intention of blocking social media networks permanently, the deputy interior minister said.

Jabar Zada said authorities were conducting investigations to find out who was behind the protests.