While protests against high unemployment, a stagnant economy with inflationary prices and expensive overseas military interventions are spreading unpredictably fast in several cities in Iran, Friday prayer-leaders seem to be divided over the uprising.
In Iran’s second most populous city, Mashhad, where the protests began, the Friday prayer-leader, mid-ranking clergy, Ahmad Alam al-Hoda sympathized with the protesters who had lost their assets held in bankrupt financial and credit institutions.
“Their protest, as well as other people’s reaction to high prices are unquestionably just”, Alam al-Hoda said, Friday, December 29.
However, he immediately asked the congregation, “Is it right to prepare food for hostile media which have no tools to lambast us other than propagating sedition?”
The term “hostile media” is used by the Islamic Republic for opposition and independent outlets publishing or broadcasting news into Iran, including U.S. financed Voice of America Persian television and Radio Free Europe’s Persian Radio Farda.
A video from social media from protests in the holy city of Qom
On Friday, protests spread to Kermanshah in the west, Tehran, Esfahan in central Iran, Rasht in the north, Ahvaz in the southwest and even Qom, the religious capital of Shiite clergy in Iran.
In an unprecedented comment, the head of Mashhad's revolutionary court, Hossein Haydari has also admitted, "We consider protest to be the people's right but if some people want to abuse these emotions and ride this wave, we won't wait and will confront them."
Protests also spread to Esfahan in Central Iran
Meanwhile, Friday prayer-leader in the city of Kashmar branded the protests as “A new plan of enemies to overthrow the Islamic Republic ruling system in Iran”.
Calling protesters “Anti-Islam, Israeli and American”, Kazem Tabatabaei urged the government and security forces to confront them and do not let a “bunch of ignoble persons force the country into chaos”.
Sabzevar’s Friday prayer-leader, Gholamreza Moqisseh also accused the protesters as feeders of hostile media and the ruling system’s enemies.
Northern city of Rasht witnessed noisy protests on the second day of anti-Islamic Republic outbursts
The Friday prayer-leader in Hamadan, Ghiathuddin Taha Mohammadi admitted that people’s protests against inflated prices are justified, but “They should be insightful because the enemy has been waiting in ambush since [last May’s presidential] election”.
The Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have not yet reacted to the spontaneous uprisings.
Nevertheless, Rouhani’s Vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri believes that anti-Rouhani administration forces are behind the widespread unrests.
“Those who are organizing these assemblies will definitely not be the last one laughing”, Jahangiri warned.
Opposition groups outside Iran have welcomed the protests as a totally justified reaction of the people who are unable to make ends meet.
On Friday, protests first started in Kermanshah. Security forces clash with protesters
Exiled former Crown Prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, whose father and grandfather were praised by some of the protesters, wrote in his Telegram Channel, “My dear compatriots”, you have chosen the right path, “there’s no other way to force the criminal cult members [the leaders of the Islamic Republic] to submit to your will”.
“Long live Reza Shah”, a reference to the first Pahlavi king who is deemed as the architect of modern Iran. Reza Shah was also well-known for his secular politics. Another slogan was “Iran haphazard, without the Shah”, apparently referring to the late king of Iran, Mohammadreza Shah Pahlavi, who was forced into exile in 1979 giving way to the rise of a theocracy in Iran.
Prince Reza Pahlavi urged people of Iran to step in and support citizens of Mashhad in their “No to High Prices” movement, “The uprising, once again showed that overthrowing theocracy in Iran is a national demand”.
In this video received from Qom, protesters chant "God bless your soul Reza Shah"
Paris based leader of an organization trying to overthrow the ruling system in Iran, Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), Marayam Rajavi also praised the uprisings as a “heroic move”, adding, “[Almost] four-decade record of the mullahs’ (clergy) rule has been nothing but inflation, poverty and corruption, torture and execution, killings and aggression”.
Mrs. Rajavi predicted, “The corrupt dictatorship of the mullahs will undoubtedly fail against your national unity and solidarity, resistance and continuity of your rightful uprisings.”
“No to High Prices” uprising has been widely reported all over the world.
Referring to the “billions in sanctions relief the Islamic republic secured through the nuclear deal”, Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton wrote on his Twitter account, the ayatollahs still can't provide for the basic needs of their own people-perhaps because they've funneled so much of that money into their campaign of regional aggression in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen”.
Senator Cotton has also insisted, “The protests in Mashhad show that a regime driven by such a hateful ideology cannot maintain broad popular support forever, and we should support the Iranian people who are willing to risk their lives to speak out against it."