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Protests Continue In Iran, With Stronger Political Overtones

Tehran university protests on December 30.

Friday’s anti-government protests in Iran continued into the night in many cities, including Esfahan and Qom in central Iran, Rasht and Qazvin in the north and Ahvaz in the southwest.

In a video published in social media showing protests in Ahvaz gunshots can be heard. Another video from Rasht shows clashes between protesters and security forces.

Other reports and videos attest to fresh gathering in Tehran and Kermanshah Saturday morning, while a heavy presence of security forces can be seen in the northwestern city of Tabriz.

Most recent photos and videos published midday on Saturday show protest gatherings in front of Tehran University. Participants are heard chanting anti-regime slogans.

One slogan is heard calling on Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei to quit. “Seyyed Ali, be ashamed, let the country go free”. Another slogan is heard against the two main factions of the regime. “Reformists or fundamentalists, it is all over”.

Videos from the scene show anti-riot police surrounding the area.

At the same time, a number of pro-Islamic Republic rallies were also held in several cities, coinciding with the anniversary of large rallies in 2009, which put an end to anti-regime protests following the presidential elections in June of that year.

According to Associated Press, there were a few thousand people attending the gathering in Tehran, which pales in comparison to previous pro-government rallies on this anniversary.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli called on the people not to participate in “illegal gatherings”. Instead, he invited protesters to apply for permits, promising “these will be reviewed”.

In the Islamic Republic it is next to impossible to get permits for protests. Many conditions are attached to any approval of a permit, including respect for Islamic principles – a vague criterion that often leads to rejection of critical gatherings.

A member of parliament representing Rasht announced that the legislature has heard the protesters and will make sure no fuel price hikes come into effect next year.

President Hassan Rouhani’s proposed budget envisioned huge price hikes for reducing subsidies the government currently pays to make cheap fuel and other necessities available.

At the same time, the proposed budget includes huge increases for the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps and religious institutions, angering ordinary citizens who began criticizing the regime on social media before the protests erupted.

But the unrest appears to have gone beyond the initial protests against high prices.

Protesters are demanding the current rulers to give up power and free political prisoners.