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Iran Semi-Opposition Group Lambasts Suppression Of Protests

People protest against the government, blocking a highway in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019.
People protest against the government, blocking a highway in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019.

Several members of the Council of Nationalist-Religious Activists (CNRA) of Iran have blasted the Islamic Republic authorities for attributing the recent local protests to political interference from outside the country.

Those who attribute the recent nationwide anti-regime demonstrations to specific political trends outside Iran are suffering from the inability to see the "reality," the CNRA members have said in a statement.

CNRA is loosely knit Iranian political "coalition" describing itself as a "nonviolent, religious semi-opposition" group. Members are former opponents of the monarchy who have not assimilated into the Islamic Republic establishment.

It is not clear how many followers the group has but they are mainly among the middle class, Bazaaris (traditional merchants), students, and academicians.

Earlier on November 17, the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had blamed the family of the last monarch of Iran, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) of inciting "thugs" and "hooligans" to riot in Iranian cities and towns.

Expressing sympathy with the impoverished and low-income people protesting poverty, corruption, and discrimination, the signatories to the CNRA statement have deplored the official position against the recent demonstrations, warning the leaders of the clergy-dominated establishment, "The unprecedented violent actions of the rulers against the protesters will block the way toward reform."

Iranian society is experiencing an intense period; the statement has argued, adding that the increasing economic and social pressures have created a situation that a pseudo-revolutionary shadow is hanging over the country.

Blaming the Islamic Republic President Hassan Rouhani for breaching his promises to the people, the signatories have insisted that he has also had a share in suppressing the protesters and should be held responsible.

In the meantime, the statement has urged the Islamic Republic authorities to open their eyes to reality, avoid violence, and listen to the people's demands.

"The protesters should also keep away from violence," the signatories to the statement have insisted without any elaboration.

Meanwhile, the statement has called for an "amendment" in the "infrastructure" of the country's constitution, "releasing all political prisoners," freedom of the media, parties, and holding fair and free elections.

Nationwide protests against an overnight three-fold increase of gasoline prices have so far left more than 140 dead and thousands more injured and arrested.

The Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has described the protesters as "thugs", supported by Iran's last royal family, including the former Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi who lives in exile.

During protests which erupted following the announcement of the sharp increase in the price of gasoline on November 15 and continued for several days, protesters chanted slogans expressing admiration for the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Shah.

Reza Pahlavi in turn blamed the Khamenei for causing ill-repute for Iran and leading the country into poverty, backwardness, isolation, and said that "the Pahlavi [dynasty] has always been and will always remain the friend and helper of its people."

Soon after the protests began Prince Reza Pahlavi and Farah Pahlavi, the former Queen of Iran supported the uprising and condoled the relatives of the protesters who fell victim to the security forces and plainclothesmen's violence.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda on November 18, the former queen of Iran Farah Pahlavi dismissed Khamenei's accusations of inciting protests and responding to Khamenei's accusations advised him to "contemplate on the reasons why the protests began in the first place."