Rouhani: Protests are an opportunity

Tehran Times- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that protests are actually an opportunity to notice the problems and find solutions for them.

Since Thursday, groups of protesters have held protests in several cities across the country to voice their anger over rising prices, unemployment and corruption.

“Recent protests seem to be a threat, but they are actually an opportunity to see what the problem is,” Rouhani said during a meeting with chairmen of the parliamentary committees.

The Iranian TV reported that 10 people had been killed during the protests. However, it was not mentioned who they were killed by. Meanwhile, security forces have been adopting a much softer approach to the protests, largely maintaining inactive presence.

Some foreign dignitaries are curious on how Iran will approach the protests. In a tweet on Sunday former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said, “With humility about how little we know about what’s happening inside Iran, this much is clear: it’s an Iranian moment and not anyone else’s. But the rights of people to protest peacefully and voice their aspirations are universal and governments everywhere should respect that.”

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also tweeted, “Watching events in Iran with concern. Vital that citizens should have the right to demonstrate peacefully.”

Speaking on Monday, Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, the spokesman for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said the IRGC had not seen a need to take actions regarding the protests.

During his session with parliamentarians, Rouhani said, “Not all of the protesters are guided by foreign elements; a number of them are the people who came to the streets because of their (economic) problems.”

However, the president said the people did not come to the streets just because of economic problems. “One of the people’s demands is a more open atmosphere.”

The president added Iran’s economy is better than the global average, however, it does not mean that all the problems have been solved.

The president went on to say that the problems should be resolved through unity.

“If we all get united, I have no doubt that the people will support us. If necessary, the people will pour into the streets to defend the system, however, it does not mean to ignore voice of criticism and protest.

“We should listen to this voice and turn it into an opportunity. We should see what the problem is and also what the solution is.”

Rouhani said all bodies, in proportionate to their responsibility, should join hands to resolve the problems facing the country.

“The Majlis (parliament), government, judiciary, armed forces and all those who have responsibility in this country should stand beside each other and become united.”

Rouhani told a cabinet meeting on Sunday that people should express their grievances in a way that it would lead to better living condition for citizens and investment in the country.

‘Financial institutes a burden on the government’

The protests first started in Mashhad and then spread to certain other cities in the country.
Reportedly, the rally in Mashhad was in protest to the failure of some financial institutes which have gone bankrupt and failed to pay back the depositors’ money.

It is noteworthy that these financial institutes, which did not have the license by the central bank, were paying high interest rates to woo depositors.

Rouhani said the failed financial institutes have been a “burden” on his government and so far about 3 billion dollars have been paid to those who have lost their money. The president said these institutes were not established during his administration. However, he said his government is making efforts to pay money to the remaining claimants.

The president also called on the parliament to revise its position toward fuel prices.

In the new budget plan submitted to parliament for ratification, the government has proposed to raise the gasoline price by 50 percent. The government has said the revenues from price increase would be used to create jobs.

However, the parliament is opposed to the increase, saying it would lead to high inflation.

Some experts partly blame the air pollution in metropolises on excessive use of heavily subsidized gasoline.

“You cannot leave the prices unchanged and expect to counter the air pollution,” Rouhani told the parliamentary committee chairmen.

He noted, “We will reach a ‘very dangerous’ point if the government and the Majlis fail to solve serious problems.”

Elsewhere, he highlighted the necessity of reducing the unemployment rate, saying, “Nothing is more dangerous than unemployment.”