White House 'Disturbed' by Reported Torture, Killings of Jailed Iranian Protesters

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives an interview to The Associated Press at his office in Tehran Iran Saturday

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives an interview to The Associated Press at his office in Tehran Iran Saturday

Protesters called for an "Iranian republic" instead of an "Islamic republic", while some complained that the clerics who have been ruling Iran since the 1979 revolution should "get lost". "While other countries stay silent, it's important that the United States speak up loudly against this government crackdown".

The outspoken MP, Sadeghi, had earlier warned of a "second Kahrizak" after the protests that rocked the country for five days over the new year.

200 politicians, academics, and military officials from almost 50 countries gathered in the one-day Tehran Security Conference to discuss security challenges threatening the regional countries and how to confront those threats. They were sparked by a hike in food prices amid soaring unemployment but some demonstrators later called for the government's overthrow and chanted against the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad reportedly stated that the present leaders are detached from the problems and concerns of the Iranian people and have no idea of what they have to deal with under the present leadership. Weeks before the protests, Rouhani publicly complained that large parts of the government budget went to religious institutions, largely seen as power bases of the hard-liners, seeking to deflect blame over the economy.

Alongside high youth unemployment and inflation, many ordinary Iranians feel that the economic benefits they were promised following the US -backed nuclear deal of 2015 failed to trickle down into their pockets.

Yet the USA and President Trump also face a dilemma.

Today, the Iranian people are once again rising up to demand freedom and opportunity, and under President Donald Trump, the United States is standing with them. The Revolutionary Guard's volunteer Basij force also was deployed and police have arrested hundreds; more than 20 protesters were killed, although security forces did not engage in the level of bloodshed that followed the 2009 protests.

But Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter said.

Today the Persian Gulf region is at a historical juncture, and success for the Iranian people's freedom movement would certainly become a powerful stabilizing force for the world.

"When we see the people of Iran demanding regime change, this is something we here have been demonstrating for the last 39 years", Nikbakht said.

Today's protests can be characterized as a bit more organic.

"I don't want to suggest we're across the finish line on anything yet", Tillerson cautioned.

Accounts are just starting to emerge of detainees locked up in connection with the protests, and Iranian officials continue to block many social-media networks and other sources of information, including Western radio and television.

"On the one hand it has succeeded in preventing these protests getting out of hand and contained them to a great extend and they did not achieve critical mass in terms of numbers", Randjbar-Daemi said. "And we call on Iran to adhere to its worldwide human rights obligations".

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