by WorldTribune Staff, November 20, 2019
Mass protests are raging in more than 100 cities in Iran days after the Islamic Republic, under pressure from sanctions, finally announced fuel rationing and a 50 percent increase in gas prices.
As it has in response to past uprisings, the government is cracking down — hard.
According to Amnesty International, more than 100 people have died in the protests. Exile groups say the death toll is above 200. State media have reported more than 1,000 arrests.
Related: ‘Most difficult time in decades’: Iran finally forced to raise gas prices, inflaming nation, November 19, 2019
The regime of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has imposed a nationwide Internet blackout and banned reporters from covering what have become the largest protests in Iran in many years.
“Authorities are brutally repressing Iranians who are frustrated with an autocratic, abusive government and its policies and who bear the brunt of negative economic consequences of renewed U.S. sanctions,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“By severing Iranians from global Internet connectivity, the authorities are hoping to hide their bloody crackdown on their own people from the rest of the world,” Page added.
Even before the gas price increase was announced, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Nov. 12 that the country in recent months has been facing “the most difficult” time in decades.
Reports from the scene which the Iranian regime has been unable to block have said that protesters are chanting “Death to Rouhani” and “Death to Khamenei” as well as “Death to the dictator.”
Iranians on social media reported receiving threatening text messages by the judiciary warning them not to attend protests. The texts called the protests “illegal” while warning that those attending the rallies could face prosecution.
In a statement carried by state media on Nov. 18, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned protesters of “decisive” action if the unrest does not cease.
Amnesty International said that Iranian government snipers have shot into the crowds from rooftops and even from a helicopter, adding to “a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by Iranian security forces, which have used excessive and lethal force to crush largely peaceful protests.”
Khamenei referred to the protesters as “thugs” and “rioters” who he says are trying to destabilize the country at the behest of foreign influences.
“Funny: Iraq and Lebanon are weeks into mass protests aimed at Iran’s malign influence in those nations. Proving the protesters’ point, Teheran actually dispatched top security officials to counsel leaders in Beirut and Baghdad on how to crush those demonstrations,” the New York Post said in an editorial.
“But now those experts have had to rush home to direct a domestic bloodbath.”