Iran arrests dozens linked to protests
Britain, France, Germany plead for US to preserve nuclear pact
13 January, 2018
Iran says it has arrested dozens on suspicion of “terrorist activities” during a recent wave of protests. The official IRNA news agency on 10 January carried a statement from the Intelligence Ministry saying security forces confiscated arms and explosives from “safe houses” kept by the detainees. It says some detainees had filmed the protests.
Demonstrations broke out across Iran on 28 December fuelled by anger at the lacklustre economy and official corruption. More than 90 cities and towns were hit by anti-government protests after the first demonstration in Mashhad, the country's second-largest city, over rising prices and other grievances. Some demonstrators were calling for the overthrow of the government. Clashes broke out at some of the protests, and at least 21 people were killed. Iran has accused the US, Israel and other foreign powers of inciting violence to try and overthrow the Islamic Republic.
Last week, hundreds of demonstrators extended their protests outside Iran's notorious Evin Prison, demanding information about loved ones arrested without being charged. Uncertainty surrounds the status of more than 3,000 who have been detained since protests broke out and quickly spread to more than 90 cities and towns across the country. The Centre for Human Rights in Iran said it had documented the deaths of three arrested protesters, the AP reported on 9 January.
On 9 January, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated accusations - rejected by the United States and other governments - that foreign countries, including the United States and its allies, were behind the protests. The United States says it is “deeply concerned” by reports that Iranian authorities have imprisoned “thousands” of citizens for participating in the anti-government street protests that have rocked dozens of cities and town. The White House on 10 January said it found “even more disturbing” reports that some of the demonstrators were tortured or killed.
But the expectation that the protests would escalate into a popular uprising and unravel the Islamic Republic did not come to pass, commented analysts. These were economic protests. They reflected deep-seated frustration with economic stagnation, mismanagement and corruption, and growing income inequality along with conspicuous concentration of wealth at the top. They were not a repeat of a past urban, secular uprising of affluent citizens demanding social and cultural change, freedom of expression, and political participation. And here lies the good news for the Islamic Republic.
Britain, France, Germany and the European Union made a joint call to the United States to protect the Iran nuclear pact, saying Tehran had a right to benefit from the lifting of sanctions tied to it. On the eve of a deadline for the US president to decide whether to re-impose oil sanctions lifted under the deal, the foreign ministers of the three European powers and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made their plea after their meeting in Brussels.
“The accord is essential and there is no alternative,” France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters. “We do not hide the other points of disagreement (with Iran) that exist.”