Tehran: Anti-government protests and demonstrations on Monday spread to more Iranian cities claiming, according to the Associated Press, more than 12 lives, including a policeman.
According to state TV, the protesters tried to overrun military bases and police stations before security forces repelled them.
The demonstrations, the largest in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, began on Thursday in Mashhad over economic issues and have since expanded to several cities. Some protesters are chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested.
Unverified videos on social media appeared to show thousands marching through the western cities of Khorramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz and many smaller towns, while reports spread rapidly that several people had been shot dead by police in the town of Dorud, AFP reported.
A swirl of wild rumours, combined with travel restrictions and a near-total media blackout from official agencies, made it difficult to confirm the reports.
The authorities appeared to respond by temporarily cutting internet access to mobile phones, but full coverage was eventually restored.
Several Iranian news agencies warned Telegram, the most popular social media service in the country, might soon be shut down after communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi accused one channel, Amadnews, of encouraging an "armed uprising".
One of the few official reports -- by conservative Mehr news agency -- showed protesters attacking a town hall in central Tehran, overturning a police car and burning the Iranian flag.
There was chaos earlier around the capital's university as hundreds took to the streets, blocking traffic and shouting slogans against the regime.
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh called the protests unprecedented.
“People from all sectors — working class, middle class, women and youth — are coming together. They are demanding regime change, not just the limited reforms we saw in previous protests,” he told Arab News.
“The modus operandi of the regime is based on using brute force to respond to demonstrators. This will definitely make the size of demonstrations grow larger,” he said.
According to Rafizadeh, Iran has had three revolutions in the past century. “There are some similarities between these protests and the ones that occurred in 1979. People are fed up with corruption, authoritarianism and they are demanding democracy and respect for human rights and freedoms.
"But these protests also highlight the frustrations over poverty, unemployment and the regime’s support of, and funding for, terrorist and militia groups across the region", he added.
The Iranian government said on Sunday it has arrested more than 370 demonstrators over the last four days of the protests, while Iranian activists have claimed that the number is much higher.
Deputy governor of Tehran province, Ali Asghar Naserbakht, said that local police arrested around 200 individuals in protest-filled streets during late hours of Sunday night. Forty of those arrested were leading the protests, he added.
Mayor of Markazi province, Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari, said that local police arrested more than 100 protestors participating in what he called an “unlicensed” demonstration.
Meanwhile, Iranian officials warned against dismissing the public anger seen in recent days.
"The country is facing serious challenges with unemployment, high prices, corruption, lack of water, social gap, unbalanced distribution of budget," tweeted Hesamoddin Ashena, cultural adviser to President Hassan Rouhani.
But, other officials pointed the blame outside Iran.
"Although people have a right to protest, protesters must know how they are being directed," Massoumeh Ebtekar, vice president in charge of women's affairs, wrote on Twitter.
She posted images from Twitter accounts based in the United States and Saudi Arabia, voicing support for the Mashhad protests.
US President Donald Trump tweeted later that Iran's people wanted change and "oppressive regimes cannot endure forever".
"The day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice," he wrote, his second time addressing the subject in as many days. "The world is watching!"