The Iranian parliament held a closed-door meeting today to discuss the deadly protests that hit the country last week, while more pro-regime rallies were held in several cities. Lawmakers interrogated Interior Minister Abdolrahmani Rahmani Fazli, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, parliament’s ICANA website reported. Some voiced concern over the internet controls put in place during the unrest, including a ban on Iran’s most popular messaging app, Telegram, which officials said had been used to incite violence. “The parliament is not in favour of keeping Telegram filtering in place, but it must pledge that it will not be used as a tool by the enemies of the Iranian people,” Behrouz Nemati, spokesman for the parliament’s presiding board, wrote on Instagram, which was also temporarily blocked during the unrest.
Many Iranians use Telegram as their main source of news and a way of bypassing the highly restrictive state media, with almost a third of Iran’s 80 million people using the app daily. Some 9,000 online businesses have been disrupted by the blocking, semi-official news agency ISNA reported, quoting a report by the culture ministry’s digital media centre. The protests began on December 28 over economic issues before quickly spiralling out of control and turning against the regime as a whole, leaving 21 dead and hundreds arrested.
Pro-government rallies were again held in several cities today, this time in Qazvin, Rasht, Shahr-e Kurd and Yazd. Tens of thousands of people have participated in similar rallies in the past few days. The rallies are “the people’s response to the rioters and troublemakers and their supporters,” said state television. It also repeated official claims that the unrest was orchestrated by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia with the complicity of “anti-revolutionary” groups.