TEHRAN, Iran: According to social media posts, protests that began last week across Iran over a reduction in state subsidies on food have turned political, with slogans calling for top leaders to step down.
Unconfirmed reports also said at least four protesters have been killed.
The government's decision to cut subsidies caused price surges in Iran by as much as 300 percent for various flour-based staples.
The government also raised prices of some basic goods, such as cooking oil and dairy products.
According to witnesses and social media posts, protesters have also expanded their demands and called for more political freedom, as well as an end to the Islamic Republic and the downfall of its leaders.
In videos posted online, demonstrators burned images of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top authority, and called for the return of the exiled son of the toppled Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi.
On Twitter, videos also showed protests in various provinces, including Ardabil, Khuzestan, Lorestan and Razavi Khorasan, while some state-affiliated media said calm had been restored throughout the country.
However, protests continued this week in at least 40 cities and towns across the country.
On May 14, Iran's state news agency IRNA said shops were "set on fire in some cities," and police arrested scores of "provocateurs."
Meanwhile, residents of the capital Tehran reported a heavy presence of security forces across Tehran.
Amidst the protests, international internet monitor NetBlocks reported an internet disruption lasting hours in Iran, seen as a potential move by the authorities to prevent protesters from communicating with each other and sharing videos on social media.
The latest unrest has increased pressure on Iran's rulers, who are struggling to keep the economy running amidst U.S. sanctions, which were reimposed since 2018 when Washington canceled Tehran's 2015 nuclear agreement.