Iranian authorities, scrambling to contain the biggest nationwide protests since 2009, have blocked social media apps and said anyone who disrupts public order will pay the price, after a turbulent night of growing anti-establishment demonstrations left at least two dead.
People took to the streets on Saturday night for a third evening of apparently spontaneous protests. The demonstrations began over economic grievances but have since taken on a political dimension, with unprecedented calls for the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down.
More protests have been organised for Sunday evening, according to online messages.
Iran’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazil, said on Sunday that authorities would not tolerate the “spreading of violence, fear and terror”, which he said would “definitely be confronted”.
“Those who damage public property, disrupt order, people’s security and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and should answer and pay the price,” he said, according to the website of the state broadcaster Irib.
The broadcaster also said authorities had blocked Instagram and the messaging app Telegram, which is the most popular social networking platform in Iran, citing an anonymous source who said it was “in line with maintaining peace and security of the citizens”.
Telegram’s CEO, Pavel Durov, earlier said it had blocked access to the popular Amadnews channel after, he said, it had “started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police”.
A source in Iran told the Guardian the state has started blocking access to Telegram, but it is not covering all provinces yet, while the block appeared to be affecting only those accessing it on cellular networks.
Authorities confirmed that two protesters had been killed in the western province of Lorestan but denied it was the result of clashes between demonstrators and riot police.
The deputy governor for Lorestan, Habibollah Khojastehpour, said police and security guards had not opened fire, and instead blamed “Takfiri groups” – Iran’s term for Sunni extremists – and foreign intelligence services. “Unfortunately in these clashes two citizens from [the city of] Doroud were killed,” he said.
The US president, Donald Trump, on Sunday tweeted that “people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism”, adding that the US was “watching very closely for human rights violations!”
Source: The Guardian