LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:
In Iran, antigovernment protests are in their fourth day, and the powerful Revolutionary Guard is warning demonstrators will pay the price. Two protesters were killed Saturday night. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports the government is seeking to blame the unrest on what it calls foreign agents.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Saturday was meant to feature a nationwide show of support for the Islamic Republic, and state-sanctioned marches did take place, but they were quickly overshadowed by the spread of antigovernment protests.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
KENYON: Demonstrators are recording videos that wind up on Twitter and other social media. This one appears to show celebrations as a poster of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is set ablaze - a serious crime in the Islamic Republic.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).
KENYON: Another appears to show protesters tearing down a banner featuring Iran's so-called morality police - deeply unpopular among some Iranians for their enforcement of strict Islamic codes of dress and behavior. Iranians reported Internet outages and at least one social media news channel closed. One official has confirmed the deaths of two protesters in Dorud in western Iran. But the provincial governor tells state TV that they must have been shot, quote, "by foreign agents." Calls by President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for Iran to respect the rights of demonstrators were seized on by Iranian officials who sought to blame the protests on outsiders. In fact, the government of President Hassan Rouhani, hampered by incessant attacks from hard-liners and by the fragmented power structure in Iran, has struggled to improve Iran's economy.
Two years after many sanctions were lifted, money has reached Iran's Revolutionary Guards and some elites but has not trickled down to street level. These protests are nowhere near as large as the ones in 2009, but they are spreading day by day. They began over economic complaints but have quickly grown into general anger at the clerical and military establishment that maintains a firm grip on power. The government's response will be decided by hard-liners who control the military and security apparatus and by the supreme leader. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.