TEHRAN, Iran — 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. Since then, thousands have gone into 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 number of those said to be participating range from less than 100 in some areas to thousands, although demonstrations do not seem to be taking place on a massive scale, BBC News reports. Still, they appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose after Ahmadinejad’s re-election, The Associated Press reports.
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.
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