Iran has begun to acknowledge the scale of recent protests that swept across the Islamic Republic, with one lawmaker quoted as saying authorities arrested more than 7,000 people.
The comment by Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, who sits on parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, came as Iran’s interior minister also alleged demonstrators wanted to take over state television.
Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli offered no evidence for his claim during an interview aired late Tuesday night on Iranian state television. Protests weren’t reported around state TV’s headquarters in northern Tehran.
Iran has yet to offer any definitive statistics for the unrest, which began November 15 when officials sharply raised government-set gasoline prices.
Amnesty International said Monday that it believed violence in the protests and a security force crackdown has killed at least 143 demonstrators.
“According to credible reports… those killed include at least 143 people,” said the London-based rights group. “The deaths have resulted almost entirely from the use of firearms.”
It said one person reportedly died after inhaling tear gas, another after being beaten. Amnesty “believes that the death toll is significantly higher” and was still investigating, it said.
In a shock announcement on November 15, Iran raised the price of petrol by up to 200 percent, triggering nationwide protests in a country whose economy has been battered by US sanctions.
The unrest erupted hours after a midnight announcement that the price of petrol would be immediately raised by 50 percent for the first 60 liters and 200 percent for any extra fuel after that each month.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the proceeds would allow his government to provide welfare payments to the needy.
During the violence, dozens of banks, petrol pumps and police stations were torched across Iran.