GENEVA, Nov 19, (Agencies): At least 106 protestors have been killed in 21 cities in Iran during unrest that broke out over fuel prices rises last week, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
“The organization believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed,” Amnesty said in a statement.
The UN human rights office voiced deep concern on Tuesday at the Iranian security forces’ use of live ammunition against demonstrators and urged authorities to rein in its use of force to disperse protests sparked by a hike in fuel prices. Rupert Colville, UN human rights spokesman, also called on authorities in Iran to restore the internet service cut off since Saturday and uphold the demonstrators’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It had reports that the number killed was in the dozens, he told a Geneva briefing, adding that the extent of casualties was “clearly very serious”. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday blamed the turmoil on Iran’s foreign foes, including the United States, and denounced protesters as “thugs”.
Hard-liners in Iran threatened violent protesters Tuesday with executions by hanging as sporadic demonstrations still gripped pockets of the country over government-set gasoline prices rising, unrest a United Nations agency fears may have killed “a significant number of people.”
It remains unclear how many people have been arrested, injured or killed in the protests that began Friday and quickly spread across at least 100 cities and towns in Iran. Authorities shut down internet access to the outside world Saturday, an outage that persisted Monday across the nation of 80 million people Officials also haven’t given any public accounting for the overall toll of the violence.
State media showed video of burned Qurans at one mosque in the suburbs of the capital, Tehran, as well as pro-government rallies. Absent though in the coverage was an acknowledgement of what sparked the demonstrations in the first place.
Gasoline prices rising represents yet another burden on Iranians who have suffered through a painful currency collapse, following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and the re-imposition of crippling US sanctions. Relatively moderate President Rouhani has promised that the fuel price rise will be used to fund subsidies for low-income families. But the decision has unleashed widespread anger among Iranians. Maryam Kazemi, a 29-year-old accountant in the southern Tehran suburb of Khaniabad, said that the hefty hike in fuel prices was “putting pressure on ordinary people.”
“It was a bad decision at a bad time. The economic situation has long been difficult for people and Rouhani unexpectedly implemented the decision on fuel,” she said. Meanwhile, the UN’s nuclear watchdog says Iran has breached another limit in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by stockpiling more heavy water than the accord allowed. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that Iran informed it on Nov 16 that it had surpassed the 130 tons (143.3 US tons) allowed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The agency confirmed Nov 17 that Iran’s stockpile had reached 131.5 tons.