FILE - In a Nov. 25, 2019, file photo, a demonstrator chants slogans while holding up an Iranian national flag during a pro-government rally in Tehran, Iran, denouncing violent protests over a government-imposed fuel price hike. Even among hard-liners in Iran, there seems to be an acknowledgment of one fact after widespread protests, violence and a security force crackdown following government-set gasoline prices spiking: This will not be the last time demonstrators come out on the street. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File) Photo: AP
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Amnesty says at least 208 killed in Iran protests, crackdown

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By JON GAMBRELL

At least 208 people in Iran have been killed amid protests over sharply rising gasoline prices and a subsequent crackdown by security forces, Amnesty International said Monday, as one government official acknowledged telling police to shoot demonstrators.

Iran has yet to release any nationwide statistics over the unrest that gripped the Islamic Republic beginning Nov. 15 with minimum prices for government-subsidized gasoline rising by 50%. State-run media did not acknowledge the Amnesty report and Iran’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iran shut down internet access amid the unrest, blocking those inside the country from sharing their videos and information, as well as limiting the outside world from knowing the scale of the protests and violence. The restoration of the internet in recent days across much of the country has seen other videos surface.

“We’ve seen over 200 people killed in a very swift time, in under a week,” said Mansoureh Mills, an Iran researcher at Amnesty. “It’s something pretty unprecedented event in the history of the human rights violations in the Islamic Republic.”

While not drawing as many Iranians into the streets as those protesting the disputed 2009 presidential election, the gasoline price demonstrations rapidly turned violent faster than any previous rallies. That shows the widespread economic discontent gripping the country since May 2018, when President Donald Trump imposed crushing sanctions after unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Since the summer, tensions across the Mideast have spiked with attacks the U.S. blames on Tehran. Iran, meanwhile, began to break the deal’s centrifuges, enrichment and stockpile limitations with hopes of pressuring Europe to offer it a way to sell crude oil abroad despite Washington’s sanctions.

In a statement Monday, Amnesty said there had been “dozens of deaths” in the Tehran suburb of Shahriar, likely one of the areas with the highest toll of those killed in the unrest. Shahriar had seen heavy protests.

Amnesty offered no breakdown for the deaths elsewhere in the country, though it said “the real figure is likely to be higher.” Mills said there was a “general environment of fear inside of Iran at the moment.”

“The authorities have been threatening families, some have been forced to sign undertakings that they won’t speak to the media,” she said. “Families have been forced to bury their loved ones at night under heavy security presence.”

Authorities also have been visiting hospitals, looking for patients with gunshot wounds or other injuries from the unrest, Mills said. She alleged authorities then immediately detain those with the suspicious wounds.

The demonstrations began after authorities raised minimum gasoline prices by 50% to 15,000 rials per liter. That’s 12 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. After a monthly 60-liter quota, it costs 30,000 rials a liter. That’s nearly 24 cents a liter or 90 cents a gallon. An average gallon of regular gas in the U.S. costs $2.58 by comparison, according to AAA.

Cheap gasoline is practically considered a birthright in Iran, home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves despite decades of economic woes since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Gasoline there remains among the cheapest in the world, in part to help keep costs low for its underemployed, who often drive taxis to make ends meet.

Iran’s per capita gross domestic product, often used as a rough sense of a nation’s standard of living, is just over $6,000, compared with over $62,000 in the U.S., according to the World Bank. That disparity, especially given Iran’s oil wealth, fueled the anger felt by demonstrators.

Already, Iranians have seen their savings chewed away by the rial’s collapse from 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 126,000 to $1 today. Daily staples also have risen in price.

The scale of the demonstrations also remains unclear. One Iranian lawmaker said he thought that over 7,000 people had been arrested, although Iran’s top prosecutor disputed the figure without offering his own. Meanwhile, a long-detained opposition leader in Iran compared the recent crackdown of protesters to soldiers of the shah gunning down demonstrators in an event that led to the Islamic Revolution, raising the rhetorical stakes of the unrest.

On Twitter, Iranian lawmakers have expressed their anger over the lack of information, although the microblogging website remains otherwise banned in the country.

“In addition to the selective portrayal of destruction of public property, (state-run) Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting should show a few protesters being shot,” lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi of Tehran wrote sarcastically.

Meanwhile, the governor of a Tehran suburb that saw demonstrations openly acknowledged in a video interview with the state-owned IRAN newspaper that she ordered police to shoot protesters if they stormed her offices. Shahr-e Quds Gov. Leila Vaseghi also said she sent text messages to citizens telling them not to join the “rioters” and that there was a “possibility of a shooting” if they did.

“I had told (the police): ‘Shoot at anybody who crosses the gate of the governor office,’” Vaseghi said in the interview.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


7 Comments
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The Iranian protesters have a set on them, don't they? Two hundred and eight people killed so far.

There's probably a whole lot more to this seething beneath the surface than just higher fuel prices.

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sharply rising gasoline prices 

Oh, the costs of continuing a nuclear program...

Will they ever get with the program and give that up? Also quit funding terrorists.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

What is telling is that the version of Iran portrayed in the article is so markedly different from the Iran portrayed in the Center For International and Security Studies at Maryland University reports.

I wonder if that's because one is based on actually talking to a representative sample of the Iranian population, or because one has to meet the high standards of scientific evidence, while the other doesn't have to do either.

PS, love how the order to shoot at violent rioters is deemed to be an order to shoot at protesters, because it clarifies the standard used to deem those killed for their acts as 'protesters'.

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Interesting picture. Even for a propaganda photo, they couldn't come up with a few people under 40 years old? That's telling.

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Government officials who give orders to kill deserve no mercy. History is replete with tyrants who have died by the sword. A secular revolution in Iran is long overdue. The Mullahs must surely be reaching for their sleeping pills; to paraphrase Shakespeare: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a turban".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

u_s__reamerDec. 3 11:57 pm JSTGovernment officials who give orders to kill deserve no mercy. History is replete with tyrants who have died by the sword. A secular revolution in Iran is long overdue. The Mullahs must surely be reaching for their sleeping pills; to paraphrase Shakespeare: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a turban".

The 'turban' reference may be offensively over-generalizing to certain people but still, Iran is a totalitarian theocracy and a revolution is long overdue there. The Libyans got tired of their Macbeth's crap and the overthrew him. Egypt overthrew Martial Law Mubarak a few years ago too.  Tunisia started off the Arab Spring wave by doing the same and they're now a democracy. I think if the US left Iraq alone the Iraqis would've trash-canned Saddam too. It's time for Iran to do the same. Just like the US needs to impeach and remove from office its arbitrary WH occupant.

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The 'turban' reference may be offensively over-generalizing to certain people 

From the context "turban" refers syntactically to the mullahs. To refine the context I could have said " a black turban", or whatever color turban they sport, the uniform headgear of those who run the so-called "theocratic" state of Iran: a tyranny, however you care to define it.

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