At least 12 protesters have been killed in anti-government demonstrations sweeping Iran, according to reports.
The protests have drawn in tens of thousands of people across the nation for several days – the boldest challenge to Iran’s leadership in nearly a decade.
State TV said 10 people were killed in street protests in several cities on Sunday night. It gave no further details on the deaths, but said more than 400 people had been arrested.
Two other protesters were killed on Saturday in the western town of Dorud during an overnight rally, according to the governor of Lorestan province, Habibollah Khojastehpour.
He said “no shots were fired by the police and security forces”, and blamed “foreign agents” and “enemies of the revolutions”.
Videos appearing to show the bloodied bodies of those said to have been killed has been widely shared on social media, but there has been no independent verification of footage.
US President Donald Trump has intervened via Twitter, demanding change and referring to the nuclear deal agreed with Iran by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2015.
Mr Trump wrote: “Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”
Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
The post followed a series of tweets sent by Mr Trump warning Tehran to respect freedom of speech.
The latest day of protests came after the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, called for calm in a televised address to the nation, saying that people have a right to protest as long as it does not lead to violence.
He said his regime must allow “space for legal criticism” – but that “criticism is different to violence and destroying public property”.
“The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society,” he warned.
The protests – which began on Thursday in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city – were prompted by discontent over the country’s weak economy and alleged corruption.
The unrest then spread to Tehran, and quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole.
As Iran sought to contain the protests, it blocked access to Instagram and the messaging app Telegram. Both apps were used by activists to organise the demonstrations and share images and information.
These are the most serious demonstrations in the country since 2009, when Iran saw eight months of civil unrest caused by Iran’s disputed presidential election.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of government supporters marched in cities across Iran in a show of support for the regime and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.