The Iranian government warned people against further protests on Saturday after two days of demonstrations sparked by anger over an array of economic problems.
"We urge all those who receive these calls to protest not to participate in these illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens," said Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli.
State news channel IRINN said it had been banned from covering the protests that spread from second city Mashhad on Thursday to hit several towns and cities.
The protests initially targeted economic problems, but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole.
US President Donald Trump warned "the world is watching" after dozens of demonstrators were arrested.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi dismissed Trump's comments as "irrelevant" and "opportunistic".
Media coverage inside Iran focused almost exclusively on pro-regime rallies held on Saturday to mark the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009, which hardliners call "the sedition".
The timing was coincidental, since the rallies are held every year on this day, but offered a handy show of strength to the regime as huge crowds of black-clad supporters gathered across the country.
"The enemy wants once again to create a new plot and use social media and economic issues to foment a new sedition," Ayatollah Mohsen Araki told a crowd in Tehran, according to the conservative Fars news agency.
Video footage on social media showed hundreds marching through the holy city of Qom on Friday evening, with people chanting "Death to the dictator" and "Free political prisoners".
Officials were quick to blame outside forces for the unrest.
"Although people have a right to protest, protesters must know how they are being directed," Massoumeh Ebtekar, vice president in charge of women's affairs, wrote on Twitter.
She posted images from Twitter accounts based in the United States and Saudi Arabia, voicing support for the Mashhad protests.
Nonetheless, officials warned against dismissing the public anger seen in recent days.
"The country is facing serious challenges with unemployment, high prices, corruption, lack of water, social gap, unbalanced distribution of budget," wrote Hesamoddin Ashena, cultural adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, on Twitter.
"People have the right for their voice to be heard."
There has been particular anger at welfare cuts and fuel price increases in the latest budget announced earlier this month.
Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Revolutionary Guards, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets.
But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, often on a sector-by-sector basis as bus drivers or teachers or workers from specific factories protest against unpaid wages or poor conditions.
Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country’s supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country’s ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic.
The demonstrations, commemorating a mass 2009 pro-government rally challenging those who rejected the re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid fraud allegations, had been scheduled weeks earlier.
However, they took on new importance after the economic protests began Thursday, sparked by social media posts and a surge in prices of basic food supplies, like eggs and poultry.
Thousands have taken to the streets of several cities in Iran, beginning first in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city and a holy site for Shiite pilgrims. Demonstrators also have criticized Iran’s government during the protests, with social media videos showing clashes between protesters and police.
The semi-official Fars news agency said protests on Friday also struck Qom, a city that is the world’s foremost center for Shiite Islamic scholarship and home to a major Shiite shrine.
The demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose after Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
However, information about them remains scarce as both state-run and semi-official media in Iran have not widely reported on the protests. An online report Saturday by Iranian state television said national media in the country hadn’t reported on the protests on orders from security officials.
State TV also aired its first reports on the protests Saturday, acknowledging some protesters chanted the name of Iran’s one-time shah, who fled into exile just before its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Ali Ahmadi, a pro-government demonstrator, blamed the U.S for all of Iran’s economic problems.
“They always say that we are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?” Ahmadi asked.
But by Saturday afternoon, hundreds of students and others joined a new economic protest at Tehran University. Witnesses said they saw a mass of riot police at the gates of the university while some roads had been blocked off.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in June to Congress saying American is working toward “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government” has been used by Iran’s government of a sign of foreign interference in its internal politics.
The State Department issued a statement Friday supporting the protests, referencing Tillerson’s earlier comments.
“Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” the statement said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the comments.
“The noble Iranian nation never pays heed to the opportunist and hypocritical mottos chanted by the U.S. officials and their interfering allegations on domestic developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.
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