Iranian coal miners attack Rouhani’s car at disaster site

by WorldTribune Staff, May 8, 2017

In a rare sign of public dissent, a group of coal miners attacked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s car on May 7 as he visited the site of an explosion that killed at least 35 miners.

Rouhani is running for re-election in the May 19 presidential poll, a contest largely viewed as a referendum on the president and his nuclear deal with world powers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses coal miners from his armored SUV. / Iranian Presidency Office / Getty Images

The miners pounded on and kicked the armored SUV carrying Rouhani in northern Golestan province, where the explosion occurred on May 3 at the Zemestanyourt mine.

The explosion happened after the coal mine filled with methane gas, sickening dozens who later rushed into the mine to try to rescue those trapped, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Three semi-official news agencies have said at least 35 people were killed in the disaster. Iranian officials say they’ve recovered 22 bodies and their search continues.

Videos showed one miner atop the SUV as another miner jumped up and down and kicked its hood. Others beat the hood and body of the SUV.

As Rouhani’s SUV eventually makes its way through the crowd, another miner rushes up to kick the back of it as it sped away down a hill, the AP report said.

Official state media did not immediately report on the incident. It was first brought to light by videos posted online by the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies, which are believed to have links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Rouhani was critical of the IRGC during a televised presidential debate on May 5.

Hamid Aboutalebi, a political adviser to Rouhani, later tweeted that the provincial governor of Golestan had told him not to let the president travel to the mine as those there were still greatly upset over the disaster.

“President Rouhani told me I am the president in the time of their pain and fervor, if their shouts at me could lead to national peace, I have to go,” Aboutalebi wrote.

The mine explosion is the second major disaster to strike Iran in recent months. In January, a high-rise tower in Teheran caught fire and collapsed, killing 26 people, including 16 firefighters.

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