While anti-government demonstrations in Iran continued for the fifth day and unconfirmed posts on social media called for protests of a media blackout, the principal of a Shi’ite seminary in Eshtehard, a small town west of Tehran, says some 500 demonstrators attacked the seminary on August 3.
The seminary is well-known in Iran for its teachers and students’ hard line on social and political issues.
The principal told Fars news agency that security forces dispersed the attackers and arrested some of them “before they set fire to the seminary and broke its doors.” He said that the attackers broke windows and chanted slogans before anti-riot police dispersed them.
Videos released on social media apparently show the attack on the seminary, but no independent sources have verified the principal’s claims or the authenticity of the videos.
The videos show demonstrators chanting slogans against clerical rule in Iran, presumably near the seminary.
Some political figures have previously said the government in Iran often attributes attacks on public offices to protesters in order to portray them as violent and radical.
Meanwhile, several reports as well as social media videos and posts indicate that protests continued across Iran on Friday evening for the fourth consecutive night in the new round of anti-government protest demonstrations.
Videos posted on social media show crowds of demonstrators in downtown Tehran near the city’s monumental theater and on Valiasr Square. In both places, videos show demonstrators chanting “Death to the dictator,” and calling on fellow Iranians to join their demand for essential rights and freedom.
Nearly all the videos from various cities show demonstrators chanting slogans against the riot police as soon as they attack the demonstrators.
In Gohardasht, near Karaj, west of Tehran, where some of the biggest demonstrations have taken place in the past week, there have been clashes between police and demonstrators, reports say.
Drivers were beeping horns as demonstrators barricaded the streets and lit bonfires to minimize the effects of tear gas, reports from Gohardasht say.
Meanwhile, spectators took to the streets and set fire to police motor bikes and bus stops at the end of a major soccer match at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, chanting, “Death to the Basij,” in reference to the militia linked to the IRGC that is usually deployed to suppress demonstrators.
More videos show demonstrators in Gharachak, a slum near Tehran, as well as other cities such as Hamadan in the west and Mashhad in the northeast. The videos were posted on August 3, but dates and geolocation of photography are sometimes hard to verify.
Still other videos show heavy anti-riot police presence in Shahinshahr, near Isfahan, where police used tear gas to disperse protesters.
The protest of the media blackout on August 4 is being discussed on social media as most news outlets have ignored the demonstrations, partly due to state censorship. As an example of the minimal media coverage of protests, the daily newspaper Iran, owned by the Rouhani administration, dedicated only 250 words to the demonstrations on August 4.
The new round of protests in Iran started on July 31 following weeks of sporadic demonstrations against the dramatic devaluation of the national currency, the rial, against foreign currencies and an unprecedented hype in the price of gold on Iranian markets. Both developments made life harder for the poor, and the wealthy witnessed a sharp devaluation of their assets and property with the government apparently unable to curb the country’s most daunting economic crisis in 40 years.