Iranian security forces fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in several provinces today, according to posts on social media, as protests triggered by rising food prices continued to spread, Reuters reports.
Iranians took to the streets last week after a cut in food subsidies caused prices to soar by as much as 300 per cent for some flour-based staples. The protests quickly turned political, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, echoing unrest in 2019 which began over fuel prices hike.
Social media footage not verified by Reuters showed at least six people killed and dozens injured over the past few days. There has been no official comment on any death toll.
Footage posted on social media today showed intense clashes in cities including Farsan in central Iran, where riot police fired live rounds at demonstrators. In Shahr-e Kord and Hafshejan, security forces used teargas and clubs to disperse the protesters.
"Fear not, fear not, we are in this together," demonstrators in the southern city of Dezful could be seen chanting in one video.
Protesters could also be seen burning pictures of Iran's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and chanting "We don't want the rule of the clerics", while calling for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the toppled shah of Iran.
In a video message on his Twitter account, Reza Pahlavi called for unity among Iranians "for a free Iran" and expressed condolences to the families of "those killed during the unrest".
Senior police official Qasem Rezai warned that "illegal gatherings were intolerable and will be confronted," according Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency.
The government last week acknowledged the protests but described them as small gatherings. Iranian state media reported last week the arrests of "dozens of rioters and provocateurs".
The government has cut subsidies for basic goods including cooking oil and dairy products in a move it has described as "fair redistribution" of subsidies to lower-income people.
Almost half of Iran's population of 85 million lives under the poverty line, according to official figures. Combined with rising inflation, growing unemployment, a slump in the national currency and state corruption, US sanctions have further crippled the economy.