Iran protests: US wants to 'amplify voices' of 'brave' demonstrators

2 January 2018, 12:39

The US wants to "amplify the voices of the Iranian people", America's ambassador to the UN has said, as she praised the "bravery" of protesters and read out their slogans.

At least 21 people have died in clashes with security forces in cities and towns across the country.

Hundreds have been arrested over the last few days and a number of public buildings have been damaged or gutted by fire.

Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley read out excerpts of chants she said were from Iranian protesters.

They included: "All of these brigades have come out to the streets, they've come out against the leader"; "We will die but we will take Iran back"; and in reference to the country's Supreme Leader: "Feel some shame, let go of the country".

Ms Haley told a press conference that the protests were "completely spontaneous" and showed a "long-oppressed people rising up against their dictators".

She called for an emergency UN session on the situation and warned of "more outrageous abuses".

"We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand by their cause," said Ms Haley.

President Trump earlier tweeted more damning criticism of the country's rulers.

He posted: "The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.

"All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets.' The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!"

The US government has also called on Iran to stop blocking Instagram and messaging apps, which have been used to arrange protests and share images and video.

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In the latest violence, Iranian state TV said six rioters had been killed in the town of Qahderijan, during an attack on a police station.

The clashes were sparked by protesters trying to steal guns, according to the reports.

Two people, a 20-year-old man and a boy aged 11, died in the town of Khomeinishahr and a member of the Revolutionary Guards was killed in nearby Kahriz Sang.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, making his first public statement on the violence, claimed "enemies of Iran" had stirred up unrest using "cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create trouble for the Islamic Republic".

Various unverified social media posts from activists, including a number of videos, appeared to show protests from locations across the country.

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The head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court reportedly warned protesters they could potentially face the death penalty.

The protests began on Thursday in Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city, and quickly spread across the nation, with some protesters chanting against the government and Ayatollah Khamenei.

The demonstrations, the largest in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, have been sparked by anger over the country's flagging economy and a jump in food prices.

President Hassan Rouhani called for calm, warning that the government would not tolerate violence.

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Turkey, meanwhile, said it was "concerned" protests were "spreading" and called for "common sense" to prevent "any escalation".

The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, blamed the UK, the US and Saudi Arabia for fomenting the protests on social media.

Theresa May's spokesman said the UK Government thinks there should be meaningful debate within Iran on the issues being raised by the protesters.

A French foreign ministry spokesman expressed concern over the "large number of victims and arrests" as a result of the protests.

Iran's foreign ministry responded directly to Trump's Twitter attack by saying he should focus on "homeless and hungry people" in his own country rather than insulting Iranians.