Protests spread in western Iran, some demonstrators detained in Tehran

People protest in Tehran Iran

More than 50 people were arrested in Iran's holy city of Mashhad, following anti-government protests over the economy and rising food prices, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Friday.

Police also arrested a small number of demonstrators in Tehran protesting price hikes and the president's economic policy.

"If the security and law enforcement agencies leave the rioters to themselves, enemies will publish films and pictures in their media and say that the Islamic Republic system has lost its revolutionary base in Mashhad", the state news agency IRNA quoted Alamolhoda as saying.

In Tabriz, despite extensive mobilization of government forces to prevent mobilisation, people took part in protests and chanted "Death to the dictator".

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Thousands of people also marched in protest in cities of Qom (central Iran), Hamedan (west), Isfahan (central Iran), Shiraz (southern Iran), Rasht, Sari and Qaemshahr (northern Iran), Qazvin (northwest of Tehran), Khorramshahr and Ahwaz (southwestern Iran), Khorramabad (western Iran), Quchan, Bojnourd, and Sabzevar (eastern Iran).

What began as a protest against economic conditions and corruption has turned political. In Tehran, fewer than 50 people protested at a public square.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators yelling, "The people are begging, the clerics act like God". "Instead of extinguishing the protests and blaming them on political factions, we should listen to the people and find solutions". The last unrest of national significance occurred in 2009 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election as president ignited eight months of street protests.

Social media videos also showed demonstrators chanting "Leave Syria, think about us", criticizing Iran's military and financial support for Assad.

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The economy has improved since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal lifted sanctions on the country, but the effects have yet to trickle down to ordinary Iranians.

There is also anger at Iran's interventions overseas.

Prices on many essential products, including eggs, have increased up to 40 percent in recent days.

Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a close Rouhani ally, suggested that hardline opponents of the president may have started the protests.

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Out of a total Iranian population of 80 million, some 3.2 million are jobless, according to official data.

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