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By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
LONDON, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Hundreds took to the streets of Iran’s second largest city of Mashad on Thursday to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators in Mashad in northwest Iran, one of the holiest places in Shia Islam, chanting “death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “death to the dictator”.
The semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reported demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.
Rouhani’s signature achievement, a deal in 2015 with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.
Many Iranians believe their economic situation has not improved due to corruption and mismanagement.
Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent in this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran, up 1.4 percent from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.
Mashad governor Mohammad Rahim Norouzian was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying that “the demonstration was illegal but the police dealt with people with tolerance”.
He said a number of protesters were arrested for “trying to damage public property”.
Videos posted on social media showed riot police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds.
Norouzian was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA that the protests were organised by “enemies of the Islamic Republic” and “counter-revolutionaries”.
Demonstrators also chanted “leave Syria, think about us”, criticising Iran’s deployment of troops to support President Bashar al-Assad against the uprising that broke out in 2011.
Tehran has also provided funds to prop up Syria’s struggling economy.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticised the government’s economic record, said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation and recession”, and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.
Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; editing by Ralph Boulton