Protests and riots took place throughout Iran, as a result of a hike on gas prices on the evening of November 15th.
An estimated 87,000 people took part in the demonstrations, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, and at least two people were killed. Dozens of banks, stores and gas stations were set on fire or damaged by rioters and about 1,000 arrests were made.
The state-run IRNA news agency reported:
“Protesters tried to set fire to the oil depot, but they were stopped by police.” It did not elaborate, but online videos circulating on Iranian social media purported to show a fire at the depot as sirens wailed in the background. Another showed a large crowd shouting: “Rouhani, shame on you. Leave the country alone.”
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, was cited as saying:
“Security forces have so far shown restraint and have tolerated the protests. But as the calm and security of people is our priority, they will fulfil their duty to restore calm if attacks on public and individuals’ properties continue.”
The decision that caused anger was an introduction of a rationing scheme and slashing of subsidies, implemented on November 15th. On the next day fuel prices went up by at least 50%, which sparked the protests.
The plan was agreed by the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination, which is made up of President Hassan Rouhani, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeisi and Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani.
The body decided that vehicles for private use would be restricted to 60 litres (16gal) of fuel monthly, while the price of petrol would jump 50% to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13) per liter.
Any fuel purchases in excess of allotted rations will incur an additional charge of 30,000 rials ($0.26) per liter.
The rise is intended to raise about $2.5 billion a year for additional subsidies for 18 million families, or about 60 million Iranians on lower incomes, the government said. The proposal had been recommended by the International Monetary Fund as a way of ending inefficient petrol subsidies and rebalancing government spending.
The Head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raeisi on November 18th said that that public opinion and the elite should have been provided with explanation about necessary plan for fuel consumption management and that the people are separate from the rioters.
He admitted that the plan was suddenly implemented, he said that the worries of the people are due to the fact that the public opinion was not prepared in advance.
He said that “destroying public and private property, setting fires, hurting people’s tranquility, frightening women and children, done with any intentions, will be severely punished.”
On November 17th, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported the increase in fuel prices. In an address on television he said that “some lost their lives and some places were destroyed.”
He called the rioters “thugs” who had been pushed into violence by counterrevolutionaries and foreign enemies of Iran.
“Setting a bank on fire is not an act done by the people. This is what thugs do,” Khamenei said.
Khamenei ordered security forces “to implement their tasks” and for Iran’s citizens to keep clear of violent demonstrators. Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said the “key perpetrators of the past two days’ riot have been identified and proper action is ongoing.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that “anarchy and rioting” would not be tolerated.
“People have the right to protest, but that is different from riots,” he was cited. “We cannot let insecurity in the country through riots.”
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that people have stayed away from rioters intending to create an atmosphere in which the voice of protesters could not be heard.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemned US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo’s backing for a group of rioters in certain Iranian cities, saying that actions by a number of saboteurs have nothing to do with the nature of the Iranian intelligent and foresighted people.
As I said to the people of Iran almost a year and a half ago: The United States is with you. https://t.co/D972wPyLxm
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 16, 2019
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also warned of “decisive” actions if unrest doesn’t cease.
“If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the statement by the IRGC said.
Iranian internet access saw disruptions and outages on the evening of November 15th and 16th., according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By the night of November 16th, connectivity had fallen to just 7% of ordinary levels.
Update: It has now been 24 hours since #Iran implemented a near-total internet shutdown following hours of partial blackouts amid widespread protests.
The ongoing disruption constitutes a severe violation of the basic rights and liberties of Iranians⏱
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) November 17, 2019
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