President Hassan Rouhani said the Iranian people will deal with a “small and minority group” of rioters and lawbreakers exploiting the protests against economic conditions in a number of cities in recent days.
Speaking in a meeting with a group of Iranian lawmakers on Monday, Rouhani said the nation would confront the small group that has used protests to chant slogans in violation of the law and people’s demands, insult the sanctities of the Islamic Revolution principles and inflict damage on public property.
“The enemy will not remain silent vis-à-vis the nation’s progress and grandeur but there are also deceived people among the protesters who have rightful demands,” he added.
He emphasized that the enemy could not tolerate Iran’s achievements in the diplomatic arena, particularly in the confrontation with the US and the Israeli regime, and explicitly announced that it would drag regional problems into Tehran.
Rouhani stressed the importance of reinforcing national unity, particularly among the three branches of the government, as the best way to tackle such issues and the people’s problems.
“I believe what has happened in recent days was apparently a type of threat which should be turned into an opportunity,” the Iranian chief executive said.
He noted that not all of those partaking in the protests were taking orders from foreigners and there were in fact a group of people who came to the streets due to “their feelings and problems.”
“We have no problem bigger than unemployment. Our economy needs an operation. We must all stand together,” Rouhani said.
Since Thursday, groups of Iranians have staged protests in several cities to voice their anger over rising prices and economic conditions. Violence has erupted during the protests, leaving 15 people dead.
National TV reported Monday 11 people were killed in the protests on Sunday and armed protesters have tried to take over police stations and military bases.
Six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan after shots were fired while three others lost their lives in the central city of Shahin Shahr. Two others, included a teenage boy, were run down and killed by a fire engine stolen by protesters in the western town of Doroud, the national broadcaster said.
A local lawmaker said two people were shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh, bringing the total death toll in four days of protests to 15.
“Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces,” national TV reported. It did not say where those attacks occurred.
People ‘free to criticize’
Addressing a cabinet session on Sunday, Rouhani said the Iranian people are completely free to express their criticism of the government or stage protests according to the Constitution and citizenship rights, and in a way that would lead to the improvement of the country’s conditions.
“We are a free nation and based on the Constitution and citizenship rights, people are completely free to express their criticism and even their protest,” he said.
However, he added that the manner of expressing criticism and protest must lead to the improvement of the country’s conditions and people’s lives.
He emphasized that the settlement of some problems in the country was “not easy and takes time,” calling for cooperation between the Iranian government and nation to solve those problems.
The Iranian people have the right to voice their criticism with regard to all affairs, Rouhani said, adding, “We believe that the government and the country belong to the people and the people must properly express what they want.”
Rouhani emphasized that criticism completely differed from violence or inflicting damage on public property, saying, “We must not allow an atmosphere to be created in the country under which supporters of the revolution and people will be concerned about their lives and security.”