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Iranians chant slogans as they march in support of the government near the Imam Khomeini grand mosque in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. Photo: Hamed Makekpour/AFP/Getty Images

About 4,000 pro-government demonstrators rallied in Tehran on Saturday in support of Iran's leaders after days of unauthorized protests broke out in the country, per The New York Times. The pro-government rallies had been previously scheduled to but "took on new importance" after the anti-government rallies, the AP reported. According to the AFP, the Iranian government warned against further protests.

Why it matters: These have been the largest pro-reform protests in Iran since 2009.

  • AFP: "Since the 2009 protests were ruthlessly put down by the Revolutionary Guards, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of pressing for change from the streets."
  • "But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, often on a sector-by-sector basis as bus drivers or teachers or workers from specific factories protest against unpaid wages or poor conditions."

"State news channel IRINN said it had been banned from covering the protests that spread from second city Mashhad on Thursday to hit several towns and cities.""Media coverage inside Iran focused almost exclusively on pro-regime rallies held [today] to mark the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009, which hardliners call 'the sedition.' The timing was coincidental, since the rallies are held every year on this day."The photos available to Axios, through AP and Getty (including the one above), only show the pro-regime demonstrations."The [earlier] protests initially targeted economic problems, but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole."Video footage on social media showed hundreds marching through the holy city of Qom on Friday evening, with people chanting 'Death to the dictator' and 'Free political prisoners."The context: "The country is facing serious challenges with unemployment, high prices, corruption, lack of water, social gap" and unbalanced government spending, per AFP:"There has been particular anger at welfare cuts and fuel price increases in the latest budget announced earlier this month.""Some of this week's protests were directed against financial scandals linked to unauthorized lending institutions which collapsed with the loss of hundreds of thousands of accounts."

Go deeper

41 mins ago - Health

Government website for free COVID tests launches early

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government launched Tuesday and is now accepting orders.

Driving the news: The website went live in its beta phase and is operating at a limited capacity a day before its official launch. Every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four COVID tests, according to the website.

AT&T, Verizon extend 5G delay over airline panic

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

AT&T and Verizon said Tuesday they would delay lighting up its 5G signals near a limited number of airports after renewed opposition from the aviation industry over concerns about signal interference.

Why it matters: The CEOs of leading airlines warned of catastrophic disruption to flights if AT&T and Verizon deployed 5G as planned this week.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Ukraine crisis: Blinken to visit Kyiv, then meet Russian foreign minister

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, following a trip to Kyiv to reinforce U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, according to a senior U.S. official.

Why it matters: The meeting with Lavrov suggests a diplomatic resolution to the crisis may still be on the table, despite the collapse of security talks between Russia and the West last week.