Four people died overnight in fresh unrest in Iran, local media reported on Monday, despite President Hassan Rouhani calling for calm and vowing more “space for criticism” in a bid to head off days of protest.
Two people were shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh, a local lawmaker said, as videos on social media showed demonstrations hitting many areas across the country for a fourth night.
“People of Izeh, like some other cities, held a protest against economic problems and unfortunately it led to the killing of two people and injuries to some others,” Hedayatollah Khademi, the local MP, told the ILNA news agency, adding it was unclear who had fired the shots.
The state broadcaster said two others died in the small western town of Dorud when they were hit by a fire engine stolen by protesters, and ILNA reported a school for clergy and government buildings were torched in the northwestern town of Takestan.
Rouhani finally broke his silence on Sunday night about the protests that mark the biggest test for the regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.
“The people are absolutely free in expressing their criticisms and even protests,” Rouhani said in a message on the state broadcaster.
“But criticism is different to violence and destroying public property.”
Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a small protest in Tehran’s Enghelab Square on Sunday evening, according to unverified social media videos.
There were also reports of protests in the cities of Kermanshah, Khorramabad, Shahinshahr and Toyserkan in the west, and Zanjan in north Iran.
More than 400 people have been arrested in the four days of protest across Iran.
Verifying reports remained challenging due to travel restrictions and sporadic blocks on mobile internet and popular social media sites including Telegram and Instagram.
The protests began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “Death to the dictator”.
Rouhani sought a conciliatory tone, saying that government bodies “should provide space for legal criticism and protest” and calling for greater transparency and a more balanced media