- State TV reports that ‘rioters’ were killed by security forces
- Protests raged after the government hiked price of gasoline
Iran for the first time acknowledged that its security forces shot and killed protesters last month during one of the most violent crackdowns on dissent since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
State television on Tuesday reported that “rioters” had been shot dead in several areas as they joined anti-government protests, including in Tehran, the capital, and Mahshahr in the country’s southwest. The latter has a sizable Arab population, and the report claimed security forces clashed with a separatist group there.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Saturday that it was investigating reports that its forces had targeted and shot protesters, the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported, citing Brigadier General Mohammadreza Yazdi.
Separately, official figures showed 300 protesters remain in custody in Tehran. Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaeili said most of those arrested during the unrest had been freed, and that the demonstrations have died down.
Iran was rocked by protests in November after the government increased gasoline prices by as much as 300% and introduced rationing as the economy struggles under crippling U.S. sanctions meant to curtail Iranian influence in the Middle East and weaken its leadership.
The International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s recession to deepen this year, with gross domestic product contracting 9.5%.
The unrest soon took a broader anti-establishment turn and authorities responded with a swift crackdown, severing access to most of the internet in a move that made it difficult to track the demonstrations and the government response.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump, who reimposed the sweeping penalties on Iran’s crucial oil exports, urged the world to take a closer look at the security operation. “The word is that thousands of people are being killed that are protesting. Not just small numbers,” he said in London, where he’s attending a NATO summit.
According to the London-based Amnesty International rights group at least 208 people have died. New York-based Human Rights Watch estimated that up to 7,000 people were arrested.
Iranian officials have put the death toll much lower.