There is growing anger in Iran over rising inflation and the plunging value of the currency, the rial. The rising tensions come against the backdrop of looming US sanctions that are due to take effect on Tuesday.
Anti-government demonstrators in several cities stretched into a fourth day in Iran, with protesters attacking an Islamic seminary west of the capital, Tehran, according to Iranian news agencies and social media reports on Saturday.
The protests come amid looming US sanctions, many of which are set to be reimposed on Tuesday.
Hundreds took to the streets across the country Friday night, including in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Karaj, according to videos on social media.
The protesters also reportedly attacked a Shi'ite Muslim seminary in Eshtehard, 100 km (62 miles) west of Tehran, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
"At 9 pm (Friday) they attacked the school and tried to break the doors down and burn things," Fars quoted the head of the school in the town of Eshtehard, Hojatoleslam Hindiani, as saying.
The agency gave only his clerical rank — Hojatoleslam — not his given name.
"They were about 500 people and they chanted against the system but they were dispersed by the riot police and some have been arrested," Hindiani said. "These people came with rocks and broke the sign and all the windows of the prayer house and they were chanting against the system."
People are growing increasingly angry over rising inflation and a dramatic plunge in the currency — the rial — which has lost nearly two-thirds of its value in the past six months.
US sanctions set to return
Three months ago, the US withdrew from a 2015 agreement among world powers and Iran in which international sanctions against Tehran were lifted. In return, Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program.
But US President Donald Trump decided to reimpose punishing sanctions against Iran, whom he has accused of posing a security threat.
On Tuesday, the reimposition of US sanctions will include purchasing of US dollars, trade in gold and precious metals, coal and industrial-related software, US imports of Iranian carpets, foodstuffs and some financial transactions.
Later in the year, on November 4, all countries must stop importing Iranian oil or they, themselves, will face financial punishment from Washington.
On Sunday Iran Air will take delivery of five ATR commercial aircraft from the French-Italian firm, slipping in under the wire before the sanctions return.
Some smaller foreign companies have vowed to get around the US sanctions but large multinational firms such as France's Total and Peugeot, and Germany's Siemens have already announced they'll abide by the sanctions.
In Washington, the US State Department tweeted on its Persian-language account: "While it is ultimately up to the #people_of_Iran to determine their country's path, #America supports the voice of the Iranian people, which has been ignored for a long time."
bik/rc (Reuters, AFP)