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MP Says 129 Arrested In Bazaar Protests

Iranian protesters shout slogans as they gather in a street close to a bazaar in Tehran, Iran, 25 June 2018
Iranian protesters shout slogans as they gather in a street close to a bazaar in Tehran, Iran, 25 June 2018

A conservative Iranian legislator, Mohammad Javad Kolivand has told the parliament’s news website that 129 people were detained during the spontaneous protest rallies at the marketplace and outside the parliament building in Tehran.

Elaborating on the recent protests in the capital, he lauded the police’s success in establishing “security and peace in society”, IRNA, the government’s official news agency, reported on July 1.
The city’s prosecutor-general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said July 1that those arrested during recent protests at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar will not be released until their trial.

Protest rallies broke out on June 24 at several business complexes in the capital and soon spread across the city, leading to the Grand Bazaar’s closure on June 25.

The protesters, who initially chanted slogans against high prices and chaos at the bazaar, also gave voice to political demands, condemning Iran’s internal and international policies.

The rallies soon spread to the neighborhood surrounding the Grand Bazaar as security forces stepped in to disperse demonstrators by firing tear gas.

Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani threatened the protesters with execution.

“We will not hesitate to implement the law,” he announced referring to a “disrupting the economic order”, a charge also used by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to threaten protesting merchants.

At a meeting with judiciary officials on June 27, Khamenei called on the Justice Department to “confront those who disrupt economic security."

Dolatabadi echoed his superiors’ threats, saying, “I warn all those involved in business that, if found guilty of economic corruption, we will not hesitate to punish them.”

On July 1, Dolatabadi went further by dismissing the protest rallies as “riots” and “sedition,” adding, “We were facing riots and acts of sedition, not protests. Those who have burned police vehicles should be prosecuted and punished.”

Images and videos posted on social media show police and security forces damaging shops during the protests.

In an official note addressing the interior minister, four Tehran MPs -- Elias Hazrati, Sohaila Jelodarzadeh, Parveneh Mafi, and Mahmud Sadeqi -- called for the punishment of security forces involved in damaging private property and the compensation of losses.

Interior Minister Abdor-Reza Rahmani Fazli admitted on July 1 that some security forces had been involved in actions that resulted in damage.

However, he cited the Commander of Police as saying, “Security forces had to break windows to arrest suspects as firemen are forced to break into a place to control a blaze.”

Using the same line of argument, Kolivand also maintained, “Legislators and the people should understand that the police has to use all means when it comes to internal security and, fortunately, in the recent gatherings, the police showed its power by ensuring the people’s and merchants’ order and security.”

While dismissing the recent protests as “riots,” Iran’s judiciary and conservative allies of Khamenei have accused “hostile foreign governments” of provoking the demonstrations that led to the closure of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.

Even students arrested in anti-corruption demonstrations last December, as well as people protesting a lack of drinkable water in Abadan and Khorramshahr, southwest Iran, have also been described as “elements with connections” to “foreign enemies.”

Nonetheless, the head of the Islamic Society of Tehran Guilds and Bazaar, Ahmad Karimi Esfahani, noted the merchants’ “justified” complaints, affirming that the people's rightful economic demands should be met.