Peaceful Protests Constitutional Right of Iranians - President Rouhani

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Iranian state TV showed crowds of government supporters in the capital Tehran

The State Department issued a statement Friday supporting the protests, referencing Tillerson's earlier comments.

Since the ruthless repression of the 2009 protests against a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets.

The protests in Iran have already gained worldwide attention from U.S President Donald Trump and the American State Department, who have issued statements on the demonstrations. Iran's foreign ministry called the comments "opportunistic and deceitful". He said Iran should respect the people's rights and warned, "The world is watching!"

A swirl of wild rumors, combined with travel restrictions and a near-total media blackout from official agencies, made it hard to confirm the reports.

The Iranian government issued a stern warning Sunday that protesters will "pay the price" after anti-government demonstrations throughout the country turned deadly.

Protesters have attacked banks and government buildings and burned a police motorcycle.

There is also anger at Iran's interventions overseas.

In another video from Tehran, protesters appeared to tear down a Khamenei poster.

In Tehran, some 4,000 people gathered at the Musalla prayer ground in central Tehran.

In the town of Abhar in northern Iran, demonstrators have set fire to large banners bearing the picture of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The semi-official Fars news agency said protests on Friday also struck Qom, a city that is the world's foremost center for Shiite Islamic scholarship and home to a major Shiite shrine.

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At least 50 protesters have been arrested since Thursday, authorities said.

It's unclear what effect Trump's support for the economic protests would have.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration struck the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, campaigned on freeing the men, though they remain detained. "Sedition, unrest and chaos are different from gatherings and peaceful protests to pursue people's demands".

"They always say that we are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?" he asked.

"Resolving the problems is not easy and would take time". However, he said Rouhani needed to do more to challenge "enemy pressures". "If I were President Trump, I'd lay out a plan as to how I would engage the regime", Graham said in an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation". "It's much more spontaneous, which makes it more unpredictable", Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told The Washington Post.

The strength of feeling appeared to catch the government off guard, but also rattled many reformists.

Social media has been exploited by protesters over other means of communication to share information about demonstrations owing to the country's tight media control.

"When a situation like this occurs the priority of the ruling system becomes the creation of a harsh security atmosphere", he wrote on Instagram.

Some protesters have blamed Rouhani for not pushing through economic reforms despite making a breakthrough agreement with the worldwide community in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Tehran now sells its oil on the global market and has signed deals to purchase tens of billions of dollars' worth of Western aircraft.

"Rouhani has run an austerity budget since 2013 with the idea that it's a tough but necessary pill to swallow to manage inflation and currency problems and try to improve Iran's attractiveness for investment", said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of the Europe-Iran Forum.


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