DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said on Sunday the country’s people and security forces had defeated unrest fomented by foreign enemies, as parliament and key security officials met to discuss the boldest challenge to the clerical establishment since 2009.
Parliament met behind closed doors on Sunday to discuss the week of unrest with the ministers of interior and intelligence, Iran’s police chief and the deputy commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard, state television said.
Meanwhile, thousands of government supporters staged rallies for a fifth day in a backlash against the biggest anti-government protests since widespread unrest in 2009 over alleged election fraud.
State television showed live pictures of rallies in several cities, including central Shahr-e Kord where hundreds, many clutching umbrellas, had gathered despite heavy snowfall.
“Death to America”, “Death to Israel”, “Death to Britain” “Death to seditionists”, the demonstrators chanted.
Unrest spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns as thousands of young and working-class Iranians voiced anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.
Residents contacted by Reuters in various cities have said the protests had subsided in recent days, after the government intensified a crackdown by dispatching Revolutionary Guard forces to several provinces.
Late on Saturday, videos on social media showed a heavy police presence in cities, including Khorramabad in southwestern Iran where on Wednesday evening social media posts showed protesters throwing stones at riot police.
The protests have drawn largely young people and workers as well as members of the educated middle-class that formed the backbone of a pro-reform revolt almost a decade ago.
A police spokesman said most of those arrested were “duped” into joining the unrest and had been freed on bail, the state news agency IRNA reported. “But, the leaders of the unrest are held by the judiciary in prison.”
Tehran University Vice-President Majid Sarsangi said the university had set up a committee to track the fate of students arrested during the unrest.
Separately, a member of parliament said about 90 students were detained, 10 of whom were still not accounted for.
“It seems that the total number of detainees is around 90. Ten students from universities in Tehran and some other cities are in an uncertain position, and … it is still unknown which body has detained them,” the labor news agency ILNA quoted reformist politician Mahmoud Sadeghi as saying.
Videos that appeared on social media in recent days showed relatives of detainees gathering outside prisons seeking information about the fate of their loved ones.
The Revolutionary Guard and its affiliated Basij militia suppressed unrest in 2009, in which dozens of pro-reform Iranians were killed.
Iranian protests: tmsnrt.rs/2CXDYXZ
Reporting by Dubai newsroom. Editing by Jane Merriman