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Amnesty Says at Least 100 Killed in Security Crackdown on Iran Protests

Amnesty Says at Least 100 Killed in Security Crackdown on Iran Protests

Tuesday, 19 November, 2019 - 10:15
This photo released by ISNA, shows a gas station that was burned during protests that followed authorities' decision to hike gasoline prices, in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Days of protests in Iran over rising fuel prices and a subsequent government crackdown have killed at least 106 people across the country Amnesty International said Tuesday, citing “credible reports.”

Iran’s government, which has not made nationwide numbers available for the toll of the unrest that began Friday, did not immediately respond to the report. A request for comment to its mission at the United Nations was not immediately acknowledged.

The Amnesty report comes after a UN agency earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed “a significant number of people.” Amnesty added that it “believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed.”

The reports “reveal a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by Iranian security forces, which have used excessive and lethal force to crush largely peaceful protests,” it said.

Intelligence and security forces did not return the bodies to their families and forced others to bury bodies quickly without an independent autopsy, Amnesty said.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told a news conference that calm had been restored.

But social media videos posted in defiance of an internet block showed protests continued in several cities on Monday night and a heavy presence of security forces in streets.

UN concern

About 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested, authorities said.

Iranian authorities have not offered a definitive account of how many people have been arrested, injured or killed in the protests that spread quickly across at least 100 cities and towns. Authorities shut down internet access to the outside world Saturday, an outage that persisted Monday in the nation of 80 million.

That has left only state media and government officials to tell their story. Absent in the coverage was an acknowledgement of what sparked the demonstrations in the first place.

The jump in gasoline prices represents yet another burden on Iranians who have suffered through a painful currency collapse, following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the United States from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and the re-imposition of crippling US economic sanctions.

President Hassan Rouhani has promised that the fuel price increase will be used to fund new subsidies for poor families. But the decision has unleashed widespread anger among Iranians, like Maryam Kazemi, a 29-year-old accountant in the southern Tehran suburb of Khaniabad, who said the new cost of fuel was “putting pressure on ordinary people.”

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” about reports of live ammunition being used against demonstrators. It also urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

“We are especially alarmed that the use of live ammunition has allegedly caused a significant number of deaths across the country,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement.

He urged authorities in Iran to restore internet and uphold demonstrators' right to freedom of expression.

Colville said it has been “extremely difficult” to verify the overall death toll. “Protests of this nature and on this scale are an indication of deep-rooted and often well-founded grievances that cannot simply be brushed aside,” he added.

Hijacked by violence

Those grievances could be heard in Khaniabad and elsewhere around Tehran. Several described taking part in peaceful protests later hijacked by violent masked demonstrators. Others heard gunfire.

“We were out to protest the gasoline price on Saturday,” said Reza Nobari, a 33-year-old car mechanic. “Suddenly a group of six or seven who covered their faces appeared together and started to break the windows of a bank. This wasn’t what we were out for.”

Jafar Abbasi, a 58-year-old who runs a dairy, said he saw another group of people who arrived in a van smash the windows of nearby shops.

“Some looted the place and some other quickly disappeared,” he said.

He added: “This is all the result of Rouhani’s decision to increase the price of fuel.”

Police and security forces remained on the streets of Tehran on Tuesday, but in lower numbers. Traffic also appeared to be flowing better, after part of the demonstrations saw people abandon their cars on major roadways.

On Monday, footage of masked young men clashing with security forces was broadcast on state television, which rarely shows any signs of dissent. In a video, a man can be seen firing what appears to be an assault rifle as others hurl stones apparently at security forces in the western city of Andimeshk.

In the latest bloodshed, assailants wielding knives and machetes ambushed and killed three security personnel west of Tehran, the ISNA and Fars news agencies reported late Monday.

One of the three was identified as Morteza Ebrahimi, a commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and father of a newborn child, according to Fars.

The other two were Majid Sheikhi, 22, and Mostafa Rezaie, 33. Both served in the Basij militia, a volunteer force loyal to the establishment.

Iran announced the decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing at midnight Thursday-Friday, saying the move was aimed at helping the needy with cash handouts.

The plan agreed by a council made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief comes at a sensitive time ahead of February parliamentary elections

It has received the public support of Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili warned on Tuesday that the authorities would deal firmly with those who endanger security and carry out arson attacks.

In televised remarks, he also called on citizens to inform on "seditionists" who have committed acts of violence.

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