Iran protests turn deadly as government blocks social media

Iranian protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country's supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Two people have been reported dead in Iran as anti-government protests grew violent Saturday night. According to reports, the Iranian government has blocked several prominent social media platforms that were used to organize the demonstrations.

Videos shared on social media Saturday show violence across the country. In one, Iranian police can be seen shooting and killing two protesters in the western town of Dorud. According to Reuters, other demonstrators in the video chant “I will kill whoever killed my brother!”

The Iranian government has said that protesters will “pay the price.”

Iranians have been demonstrating across the country since Thursday, speaking out about the country’s weak economy and a surge in prices of basic food supplies. College students and other young people were able to mobilize using social media platforms, two of which are now being blocked by the Iranian government.

The CEO of Telegram, a popular messaging application, said that after the company refused to shut down several peaceful protesting channels, the government blocked access for a majority of Iranians. Others have reported that Instagram, a photo sharing application owned by Facebook, has also been blocked.

According to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli said that the use of social networks by some Iranians is “causing violence and fear,” and that “such behavior will be smashed.”

Official state media has said it did not report on the demonstrations at first under orders from security officials, but was forced to recognize the events when President Trump tweeted his support for the protesters Friday.

“Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves,” the president, who has been trying to restrict Iranian nationals from entering the United States, wrote on Twitter. “The world is watching!”