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Protests spread to more parts of Iran Friday, as ordinary Iranians demanded the government reinstate subsidies on food that have seen prices soar since they began earlier this week. Observers also note that the protests have taken on a pointedly more anti-regime tone in the last 48 hours.
Videos shared on social media show protesters shouting anti-regime slogans, and in two separate cases, attacking the offices of the much feared Basij paramilitary militia. Other images shown on The Foreign Desk website shows a red vehicle purportedly spraying protesters with an unknown fluid, possibly tear gas.
Protesters, showing no fear of retribution by the state security services have been heard shouting “Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!” referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who has promised to create jobs, lift sanctions, and rescue the economy.
Lisa Daftari, an expert on Iran and editor-in-chief of the news website The Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital that the protests have spread to several more of Iran’s 31 provinces including Khuzestan, Lorestan, Kurdistan, Isfahan, Kermanshah, Hamedan, Sistan, Rasht, Azerbaijan, Chaharmahal Bakhtiari and Shahrekord and Ardabil.
Daftari stated that, “In the past decade the Iranian people have done a wonderful job acting as citizen journalists to tell the world what the true plight of the Iranian people is, and how misrepresented their regime is in the mainstream media. While the Biden administration, similar to the Obama administration, is busy obfuscating the facts about a brutal and repressive regime that is not interested in changing its ways, the people of Iran are suffering. They are telling us their true stories.”
The Associated Press, citing reports from Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA, stated that some 22 protesters had been arrested since last night. The Iranian UN mission in New York did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
As the protests continue the Biden administration is still seeking to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.) While there is growing opposition in Congress to the U.S. going back to the deal, the administration is continuing to push for a return to it. The deal was signed by President Obama in 2015, and President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018.
In a week that saw two European citizens arrested on espionage charges in Iran, Reuters news agency reported Friday that a State Department official said that the U.S. appreciated the efforts being shown by the EU in its efforts to reinvigorate the deal. Negotiations have stalled in recent weeks.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), and an expert on Iran told Fox News Digital the protests were part of a larger anti-government trend.
“It would be yet another mistake to view these protests as isolated or merely economic. They are part of a growing trend of anti-regime protests that use social, economic, and environment matters to make claims about their desire for responsible and representative government,” he said.
He said the administration needs to take note of what’s going on. “Just over a decade ago, some slogans chanted by Iranian protesters about death to the Supreme Leader or in favor of Iran’s past monarchial dynasty would have been taboo. Now they are commonplace. Washington can ill afford to ignore this transition,” he said.
Iran abruptly raised prices as much as 300% for a variety of staples such as cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk on Thursday. Scores of alarmed Iranians waited in long lines to snatch up bundles of food and emptied supermarket shelves across the country in the hours before the price hike took effect.
Although Iran produces roughly half of its own wheat, it imports much of the rest from Russia. The war has added to inflationary pressures.
The government is trying to act swiftly to blunt the pain. Authorities have promised to pay every Iranian citizen some $14 a month to compensate for the price hikes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.