Iran's supreme leader blames 'enemies' of country for recent unrest

At least 21 people have died amid major demonstrations in the country

Iran's supreme leader blames 'enemies' of country for recent unrest

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. Picture by: SalamPix/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

Updated 21.15

Iran's supreme leader has blamed 'enemies of Iran' for stirring up protests that have rocked the country in recent days.

At least 21 people have died as demonstrators clashed with security forces in cities and towns across the country.

Hundreds have been arrested over the last few days and a number of public buildings have been damaged or gutted by fire.

State TV said six rioters were killed in the town of Qahderijan, during an attack on a police station.

The clashes were sparked off as protesters tried to steal guns, according to the reports.

Two people, a 20-year-old man and a boy aged 11, died in the town of Khomeinishahr and a member of the Revolutionary Guards was killed in nearby Kahriz Sang.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, making his first public statement on the violence, claimed "enemies of Iran" had stirred up unrest using "cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create trouble for the Islamic Republic".

Various unverified social media posts from activists, including a number of videos, appeared to show protests from locations across the country.

The head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court reportedly warned protesters they could potentially face the death penalty.

Organisers appear to have used social media to call for more protests in dozens of towns and cities across the country tonight from 5pm local time.


A demonstrator shouts slogans near the flag of the former Imperial State of Iran as he gathers with supporters of Maryam Rajavi, head of the Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance, outside the Iran Embassy, in Rome. Picture by: Gregorio Borgia/AP/Press Association Images

The demonstrations, the largest to strike Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, have been sparked by anger over the country's flagging economy and a jump in food prices.
President Hassan Rouhani called for calm, warning that the government would not tolerate violence.

Turkey, meanwhile, said it was "concerned" protests were "spreading" and called for "common sense" to prevent "any escalation".

The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, blamed the UK, the US and Saudi Arabia for fomenting the protests on social media.

Theresa May's spokesman said the UK government thinks there should be meaningful debate within Iran on the issues being raised by the protesters.

A French foreign ministry spokesman expressed concern over the "large number of victims and arrests" as a result of the protests.

The US wants to "amplify the voices of the Iranian people", America's ambassador to the UN has said, as she praised the "bravery" of protesters.

Nikki Haley read out excerpts of chants she said were from Iranian protesters.

They included: "All of these brigades have come out to the streets, they've come out against the leader"; "We will die but we will take Iran back"; and in reference to the country's Supreme Leader: "Feel some shame, let go of the country".

Ms Haley told a press conference that the protests were "completely spontaneous" and showed a "long-oppressed people rising up against their dictators".

She called for an emergency UN session on the situation and warned of "more outrageous abuses".

"We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand by their cause," said Ms Haley.

Earlier, Donald Trump took to Twitter to praise those taking part in protests against Iran's "brutal and corrupt" regime.

Iran's foreign ministry responded directly to Trump's Twitter attack by saying he should focus on "homeless and hungry people" in his own country rather than insulting Iranians.

The protests began on Thursday in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran's second-largest, and quickly spread across the nation, with some protesters chanting against the government and Ayatollah Khamenei.