Iran's Rouhani vows 'space for criticism' as Iran protests continue

Iran's Rouhani vows 'space for criticism' as Iran protests continue
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has broken his silence on recent unrest in the country, pledging there will be 'space for criticism' as a fourth day of anti-government demonstrations continue.
2 min read
01 January, 2018
Protests in Iran continue for a fourth day (Getty)
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that government bodies must provide "space for criticism" as he sought to head off days of unrest, but also warned protesters that 'violence' was unacceptable.

Hundreds of protesters marched through Tehran and other cities in a fourth day of demonstrations as authorities cut access to social media.

Rouhani finally broke his silence on the protests that mark the biggest test for the regime since mass protests in 2009.

They began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday, but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole with thousands marching in towns across Iran amid chants of "death to the dictator".

"The people are absolutely free in expressing their criticisms and even protests," Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting, according to the state broadcaster.

"But criticism is different to violence and destroying public property."

He sought a conciliatory tone, saying that government bodies "should provide space for legal criticism and protest" and calling for greater transparency and a more balanced media.

US President Donald Trump said the "big protests" showed people "were getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism".

"Looks like they will not take it any longer," he wrote on Twitter.

In a later tweet, Trump accused Iran of "numerous violations of Human Rights", and commented on the disruption to social media, saying it "has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!"

Rouhani dismissed Trump's comments.

"This man who today in America wants to sympathise with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called the nation of Iran terrorist."

"This person whose whole being is against the nation of Iran has no right to feel pity for the people of Iran."

Two hundred people were reported to have been arrested in Saturday night's unrest in Tehran, and officials confirmed two people had been killed in the small western town of Dorud.