U.S. officials are expressing support for Iranian protesters as demonstrations against soaring food and commodity prices became increasingly politicized over the weekend.
“Brave Iranian protesters are standing up for their rights,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement tweeted late Sunday, as Tehran continued to talk about demonstrators fighting with each other. Reports of clashes between authorities.
Video posted online allegedly showed protesters burning a photo of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters reported, adding that demonstrators also called for the exile of Iran’s shah, who was overthrown decades ago. Son Reza Pahlavi returns.
Protests began in several Iranian cities last week after the government slashed food subsidies, causing prices of some staples, mainly flour, to rise by as much as 300 percent. Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest grain exporters, and the war that began in February has put pressure on some developing countries to cut supplies and increase prices.
By Saturday night, social media posts said protesters in some areas had expanded their demands for larger reforms in Iran, where political and press freedoms are tightly controlled by a hardline Islamist government.
The development comes as the Biden administration continues to hope for a revival of the defunct 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which gave Iran major economic sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear activities, which the West fears were aimed at make atomic weapons. The State Department said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed the status of negotiations with key European partners during a visit to Berlin over the weekend, mainly focusing on the Ukraine crisis.
Former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and reinstated sanctions on Iran, arguing that the agreement failed to prevent Iran from backing militant anti-U.S. allies in several Middle Eastern nations or curb Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Analysts say the sanctions have somehow squeezed Iran’s economy, creating challenges for ordinary Iranians but also increasing social and political tensions in the country.
There have been unconfirmed reports in recent days that at least four protesters have been killed in recent demonstrations.
Mr Price tweeted on Sunday night, “The people of Iran have the right to hold their government accountable.
“We support their rights to peaceful assembly and free speech online and offline — without fear of violence and reprisals,” a State Department spokesman said.
Iranian state news media appeared to have failed to report on the recent protests, and the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran warned last week that the regime in Tehran has a track record of cracking down on popular uprisings. The center said the U.S. and other governments must speak up for the demonstrators.
“There is no time to waste,” CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi said in a statement. “If the international community does not send a strong warning of state violence and arbitrary arrests, we could have another massacre in the Islamic Republic.”