In a rare moment of transparency for Iran’s state-run media, a domestic television station reported that Iranian security forces shot and killed protesters – whom they described as dangerous “rioters” conspiring to undermine national stability – in several Iranian cities during a wave of unrest sparked by a massive hike in gasoline prices.
The report is the first time the Iranian government has even acknowledged the killings, which were largely carried out by state security forces.
As Bloomberg explains, Iranians have come to regard cheap gasoline as a birthright, since low gas prices are one of the few sops that the government can throw the impoverished Iranian people.
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Many underemployed Iranians work as cab drivers, an easy, low-cost gig that can quickly line the pockets of any impoverished Iranians.
At least 208 people were killed during the protests, according to Amnesty International, though Iran’s UN delegation insisted this claim was inaccurate.
Iran infamously blocked access to the Internet during the unrest that gripped the country, cutting off the flow of information from non-official sources.
According to the state TV report, many of those killed during the unrest were “rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centers with firearms or knives, or have taken hostages in some areas.” Others killed were described as passers-by, security forces and peaceful protesters, though the report didn’t attempt to assign blame for their deaths.
In one case, the report said security forces confronted a separatist group in the city of Mahshahr armed with “semi-heavy weapons.”
“For hours, armed rioters had waged an armed struggle,” the report alleged. “In such circumstances, security forces took action to save the lives of Mahshahr’s people.”
Separately, state TV acknowledged confronting “rioters” in Tehran, as well as in the cities of Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, where Amnesty said there had been “dozens of deaths.” The suburb was one of the areas that saw one of the highest death tolls during the protests.
Amnesty didn’t offer much of a breakdown of deaths across the country, saying only that “the real figure is likely to be higher” than what it reported.
However, the report did note that there is a “general element of fear” inside Iran.
“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.”
Thanks to President Trump’s sanctions, Iran’s economy has taken a nosedive. Recently, the World Bank estimated Iranian GDP at $6,000 per person, compared with more than $62,000 in the US.
Prior to this latest report, Iranian leaders denounced the protests as a “conspiracy”, and also announced that more than 700 banks were torched.
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