Iran orders social media blackout amid protests

Iran blacks out social media as President Rouhani slams Trump in address to his nation after defiant protesters face water cannon and hundreds of arrests on the fourth day of demonstrations

Iran‘s president Hassan Rouhani has hit back at Donald Trump, saying the U.S President has no right sympathise with Iranians after calling them terrorists.

In his first public comments since the wave of anti-government protests began on Thursday, he also said people are free to criticise the government but their protests should not lead to violence.

The authorties in Iran have now blocked access to Instagram and the popular Telegram messaging app used by activists to organize and publicize the protests.

President Trump has regularly been tweeting his support for protesters in Iran, most recently saying: ‘The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.‘

Trump tweeted Sunday that it looks like the Iranians ‘will not take it any longer‘

But Rouhani hit back saying: ‘This man in America who is sympathising today with our people has forgotten that he called the Iranian nation terrorists a few months ago. This man who is against the Iranian nation to his core has no right to sympathise with Iranians.‘

President Rouhani, comments come as a security deputy for Tehran‘s governor raid that 200 people had been arrested after protests on Saturday nightincluding 40 ‘leaders‘.

An official in Arak, around 300 kilometres (190 miles) southwest of Tehran, said 80 people had been detained there overnight. 

A fourth day of demonstrations saw crowds take to the streets to light fires on the streets and shout ‘death to the dictator‘ with water cannon used on a crowd in Tehran.

In an address to his cabinet, the Iranian president said: ‘‘People are absolutely free to criticise the government and protest but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life.

‘Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties.

‘Resolving the problems is not easy and would take time. The government and people should help each other to resolve the issues.

‘The government will definitely not tolerate those groups who are after the destruction of public property or disrupting the public order or spark riots in the society.‘

The demonstrations were fanned in part by messages sent on the Telegram messaging app, which authorities blocked Sunday along with the photo-sharing app Instagram, which is owned by tech giant Facebook.

Telegram in particular is very popular in Iran, with more than 50 per cent of the country‘s 80m population said to be active on the app.

Iran state TV website reported the decision citing an anonymous source who said it was ‘in line with maintaining peace and security of the citizens.‘

The source said: ‘With a decision by the Supreme National Security Council, activities of Telegram and Instagram are temporarily limited.

Despite the online crackdown more footage emerged on Sunday showing demonstrations spreading to the cities of Sanandaj and Urmye in Kurdistan Province.

Police reportedly used water cannon against demonstrators who had gathered in Ferdowsi Square in Tehran.

Video posted online also showed a clash between protesters and police in the city of Khoramdareh in Zanjan province in the country‘s northwest and Kermanshah in western Iran.

The protests began in the north-east on Thursday over the country‘s flagging economy, but have since spread to encompass fury at the regime.

Iran has accused ‘foreign agents‘ of fanning the flames of dissent.

Among those accused is Roohallah Zam, who runs a Telegram channel spreading news of protests as well as times and locations of upcoming marches. 

The Iranian government accuses Zam of inciting violence, though he denies this.

Also weighing in on the unfolding crisis was Nikki Haley, America‘s representative at the UN, who said the country is ‘being tested by its own citizens‘.

‘We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day,‘ she said in a statement.

Haley‘s comments echoed those of US President Donald Trump, who earlier Sunday said the United States was watching closely for human rights violations.

‘Big protests in Iran. The people are finally 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,‘ Trump tweeted. 

Iran has promised to use an ‘iron fist‘ to crush dissent, raising fears of widespread bloodshed after two activists were shot dead in the city of Dorud overnight.

The government has confirmed the deaths, but said the men were killed by ‘foreign agents‘ and not the security forces.

Video posted on social media showed two young men lying on the ground and covered with blood as a voice over said they had been shot dead by police. 

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