KONFRONTASI-Protests that shook Iran were not just aimed at the economy, President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday, remarks suggesting the real targets were powerful conservatives opposed to his plans to expand individual freedoms at home and promote detente abroad.
The pragmatic cleric, who defeated anti-Western hardliners to win re-election last year, also called for the lifting of curbs on social media used by anti-government protesters in the most sustained challenge to hardline authorities since 2009.
“It would be a misrepresentation (of events) and also an insult to Iranian people to say they only had economic demands,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
“People had economic, political and social demands.”
Iran’s influential Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday the security forces had put an end to a week of unrest fomented by what it called foreign enemies.
The protests, which began over economic hardships suffered by the young and working class, spread to more than 80 cities and towns and has resulted in 22 deaths and more than 1,000 arrests, according to Iranian officials.
Hamid Shahriari, the deputy head of the Judiciary said that all ringleaders of the protests had been identified and arrested, and they would be firmly punished and might face capital punishment.
An Iranian lawmaker confirmed on Monday the death of one detainee in prison.
“This 22 year old young man was arrested by the police. I was informed that he has committed suicide in jail,” Tayebeh Siavashi was quoted as saying by ILNA news agency.
Many of the protesters questioned Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East, where it has intervened in Syria and Iraq in a battle for influence with rival Saudi Arabia.