Thousands of Iranians returned to the streets of Tehran on Monday in response to the significant devaluation of the country's currency, the rial, which is disrupting business by driving up the cost of imports.
"Death to Palestine," "Help us, not Gaza," and "Leave Syria alone and deal with Iran," protesters shouted, calling on the Iranian regime to invest in its own economy rather than interfering in other spheres throughout the Middle East.
Protesters gathered in the streets, in shopping malls and outside the parliament building where they clashed with security forces. Iran Freedom, a popular Twitter account dedicated to bringing freedom and democracy to Iran, wrote that the protesters asked security forces to join the protests instead of breaking them up. "Disciplinary forces dispatch to crackdown the protests; in return protesters chant “Disciplinary force, support us, support us,” the Tweet read.
#BREAKING— Iran Freedom (@4FreedominIran) June 25, 2018
Disciplinary forces dispatch to crackdown the protests; in return protesters chant “Disciplinary force, support us, support us”#FreeIran2018 pic.twitter.com/st0q7TNiLP
Blogger & Political Activist Masoud Dalvand tweeted "#BREAKING: Protests expand in #Tehran today, 6/25. Crowd chants: "We will die, will take back #Iran," "Iranians will die, will not accept humiliation."
#Breaking: Protests expand in #Tehran today, 6/25. Crowd chants: "We will die, will take back #Iran," "Iranians will die, will not accept humiliation." #FreeIran2018 #IranRegimeChange .@SecPompeo pic.twitter.com/jroei0NqmL— Masoud Dalvand (@Masoud_Dalvand) June 25, 2018
These were the first large-scale demonstrations since December 2017 when protests erupted calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to step down which were violently contained by Iranian security forces.
Traders from the bazaar, whose merchants supported Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, said that most shops remained closed on Monday, Reuters reported.
"We are all angry with the economic situation. We cannot continue our businesses like this. But we are not against the regime," said a merchant in the bazaar, who asked not to be identified.
The rial is under heavy pressure from the US sanctions threat. It sank as low as 90,000 against the dollar in the unofficial market on Monday from 87,000 on Sunday and around 75,500 last Thursday, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com. At the end of last year, it stood at 42,890.
After US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from world powers' deal with Iran on its nuclear program, some US sanctions are to be reimposed in August and some in November.
This may cut Iran's hard currency earnings from oil exports, and the prospect is triggering a panicked flight of Iranians' savings from the rial into dollars.
Ali Fazeli, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, a business association, denied the existence of the protests and told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Monday: "Business is as usual in the Grand Bazaar."
State TV quoted Tehran's deputy governor Abdolazim Rezaie down-playing the extent of the protests, saying that no one had been arrested in the Tehran protests and adding that all the shops will be open on Tuesday.
Reuters contributed to this report.