Protests in Iran are a sign of “real popular dissatisfaction” with the country’s leaders, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.
The unrest, which began on November 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300%, spread to more than 100 cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded clerical leaders step down.
“My own feeling is that this is not just about fuel prices, this is a sign of real popular dissatisfaction with the regime and frankly I am by no means surprised,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference following a NATO summit.
“As so often, Iranian disruption in the region is a distraction from the failings of the Iranian regime.”
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for the release of any unarmed and innocent people who were detained during the protests.
“Religious and Islamic clemency should be shown and those innocent people who protested against petrol price hikes and were not armed ... should be released,” he said in a televised speech.
Iran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to its opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes - the United States and Israel.
Tehran has given no official death toll, but Amnesty International said on Monday it had documented the deaths of at least 208 protesters, making the disturbances the bloodiest since the 1979 uprising that swept clerics to power.
A lawmaker said last week that about 7,000 protesters had been arrested. The judiciary has rejected the figures.