DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) – Angry protesters shouted at an envoy sent by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the collapse of a building in southwestern Iran, killing at least 32 people, prompting the riot police to join the club. Tear gas shells of protesters and fire were fired. According to online videos analyzed on Monday.
The demonstration directly challenged the Iranian government’s response to the disaster a week earlier as pressure mounted on rising food prices in the Islamic republic. and other economic woes amid the disclosure of its nuclear deal with world powers.
While the protests so far still appear to be headless, even Arab tribes in the region appear to be joining them on Sunday, raising the threat of unrest. Tensions have already escalated between Tehran and the West after Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers seized at sea on Friday.,
Ayatollah Mohsen Heydari Alekasir tried to address mourners near the 10-story Metropole building, but hundreds gathered on Sunday night and started shouting.
Surrounded by bodyguards, the Ayatollah tried to continue into his 60s, but could not.
“What is happening?” The cleric whispered to the Charan-A bodyguard, who then bent down to tell him something.
The cleric then tried to address the crowd: “My dear, please remain calm, as a sign of respect to Abadan, his martyrs and beloved (victims), the entire Iranian nation is mourning tonight.”
The crowd responded by shouting: “Shameless!”
A live broadcast of the incident on state television was then cut. The protesters later chanted: “I will kill; I will kill the one who killed my brother!”
Tehran-based daily Hamshahri and the semi-official Fars news agency said protesters attacked a stage where state TV had installed its camera, causing it to stop broadcasting.
Police ordered the crowd not to raise slogans against the Islamic Republic and then ordered them to leave, calling their rally illegal. Videos later showed officers clashing and clubbing protesters as clouds of tear gas rose. At least one officer fired what appeared to be a shotgun, though it was unclear whether it was live fire or designed to stun so-called “beanbag” rounds.
It was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured or if police had made any arrests.
The description in the video is consistent with the known features of Abadan, located about 660 kilometers (410 mi) southwest of the capital Tehran. Foreign-based Persian-language television channels described the firing of tear gas and other shots.
Free news gathering is extremely difficult in Iran. During the unrest, Iran has disrupted internet and telephone communications in the affected areas, while also limiting the movement of journalists inside the country. Reporters Without Borders describes the Islamic Republic as the third worst country in the world to be a journalist – after only North Korea and Eritrea.
After the tower collapsed in Abadan last Monday, officials acknowledged the building’s owner and corrupt government officials had allowed construction to continue at the Metropol Building, despite concerns over its shoddy workmanship., Authorities have arrested 13 people, including the city’s mayor, as part of a comprehensive investigation into the disaster.
Rescue teams pulled three more bodies from the rubble on Monday, bringing the death toll to 32, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Officials fear that more people may be trapped under the debris.
The fatal collapse has raised questions about the safety of similar buildings in the country and underscored the ongoing crisis in Iranian construction projects, The collapse is reminiscent of the 2017 fire and collapse of the iconic Plasco building in Tehran, which killed 26 people,
In Tehran, the city’s emergency department warned that 129 tall buildings in the capital are “vulnerable” based on a survey in 2017. The country’s prosecutor-general, Mohamed Javad Motazeri, has promised to address the issue immediately.
Abadan has also seen disasters in the past. In 1978, a deliberate fire at Cinema Rex – just a few blocks from the collapsed building in modern Abadan – killed hundreds. The anger over the fire caused unrest in Iran’s oil-rich regions and helped lead to the Islamic Revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Abadan, in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, is home to Iran’s Arab minority, who have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens in the Persian nation. Arab separatists in the region have launched attacks on pipelines and security forces in the past. The video and the newspaper Hamshahri mentioned that two tribes had come to the city to support the protest.
Meanwhile, one of the two Greek tankers seized by Iran on Friday turned on its tracking devices for the first time since the incident. Oil tanker Prudent Warrior delivered satellite positions Monday off Bandar Abbas, a major Iranian port, according to data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by The Associated Press.
Five armed guards were on the Prudent Warrior on Monday, although Iranian officials were allowing the crew to use their mobile phones, said George Wakirtzis, chief financial officer of the ship’s manager, Polembros Shipping.
“The whole thing is political and in the hands of the Greek Foreign Office and the Iranian government,” Vakirtzis told the Associated Press.
On Monday night, Iranian state TV broadcast footage of the raid on Prudent Warrior. The video showed masked Guard soldiers landing a helicopter on the ship, then civilians armed with assault rifles stormed the bridge of the ship.
It is unclear where the second ship, the Delta Poseidon, is located.
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