Cleric blames social media for fuelling widespread protests in Iran

Iranian senior cleric Ahmad Khatami. Pic: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

A hard-line cleric has called on Iran to create its own indigenous social media apps, as he blamed social networking for unrest that followed days of protests over the Islamic Republic’s economy.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami made the comments while leading Friday prayers in Tehran.

He said that when the country blocked social media, "the riots stopped".

The cleric added that "the nation does not support a social network that has its key in the hands of the United States".

He also said he believed anyone who burned Iran’s flag should be sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, state TV showed footage of pro-government rallies in cities, including Tabriz and Kerman. It marks the third day of such demonstrations.

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, called for by the United States, is to discuss the ongoing unrest later.

At least 21 people have been killed in disturbances surrounding the protests, which began last week over rising food prices and Iran’s flagging economy before spreading to cities across nearly all of Iran’s provinces.

Iranian worshippers chant slogans while they burn a representation of U.S. flag during a rally against anti-government protestors after the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran. Pic: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Authorities have said the protests are waning.

Islamic State (IS) has declared support for the anti-government protests.

In its latest weekly publication, Al Nabaa, the extremists describe the protests as a "revolution against the regime" and an uprising against Wilayat al-Faqih, or Iran’s system of governance by clerics.

Messages sent through the protesters to their rulers are "highly important" and they should continue, the statement added.

IS is a Sunni extremist organisation which views those who subscribe to other religions and sects, including Shia Islam, as apostates.

The extremists claimed responsibility for a rare attack in Tehran in June that killed 17 people at the parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.


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