After up to 200 killed, Iran’s Guards praise ‘timely’ action against protesters

Near-total internet blackout still in force; leaders of protests that began after gas price rise arrested

Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP/ File)
Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP/ File)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Thursday praised the armed forces for taking “timely” action against “rioters” and said calm had returned after days of unrest sparked by a hike in gasoline prices.

The protests erupted across the sanctions-hit country on November 15, hours after the price of gas was raised by as much as 200 percent.

Motorists blocked highways in Tehran before the unrest spread to cities and towns across the country, with gas pumps torched, police stations attacked and shops looted.

“Incidents, big and small, caused by the rise in gasoline price took place in (a little) less than 100 cities across Iran,” said a statement on the Guards’ official website

The Guards said the “incidents were ended in less than 24 hours and in some cities in 72 hours” as a result of the “armed forces’ insight and timely action.”

The “arrest of the rioters’ leaders has contributed significantly to calming the situation.”

Protest leaders were arrested by the Guards’ intelligence arm in the province of Tehran and Alborz as well as in the southern city of Shiraz, according to the statement.

A near-total internet blackout remained in effect on Thursday, with Iranians abroad tweeting hashtags like #Internet4Iran and calling for an end to the outage, now in its fifth day.

Iran’s state TV has not aired any new footage of the unrest since Wednesday, focusing rather on “spontaneous” pro-government rallies in several cities across the country.

The United Nations human rights office has said it was alarmed by reports live ammunition had caused a “significant number of deaths.”

Iranian mourners attend the funeral of Morteza Ebrahimi, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who was killed in violent demonstrations that erupted across Iran last week against a surprise petrol price hike, on November 20, 2019 in the central Iranian city of Shahriar. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Officials have confirmed five deaths, including of three security personnel stabbed by “rioters.”

London-based rights group Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed and that the real toll could be as high as 200.

It said video footage showed that “snipers have also shot into crowds of people from rooftops and, in one case, a helicopter.”

Security forces had been seen taking away dead bodies and injured people from roads and hospitals, according to witnesses, and refused to hand over bodies of victims to their families, Amnesty said.

The full extent of the bloodshed was difficult to ascertain given the internet restrictions.

Iran’s mission to the UN disputed the Amnesty toll in a tweet, saying figures “not confirmed by the government are speculative” and in many cases a “disinformation campaign waged against Iran.”

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