Opinion

Amnesty investigates ‘dozens of deaths’ in Iran protests as regime’s Guards give ominous warning

An Iranian man checks a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2019

Amnesty investigates ‘dozens of deaths’ in Iran protests as regime’s Guards give ominous warning

  • The comments raise fears that a harsh security crackdown could be on the cards
  • Protests have spread across the Islamic Republic since Friday

DUBAI: Amnesty international said it was investigating "dozens of deaths" in Iran as powerful Revolutionary Guards warned anti-government protesters of “decisive” action if unrest over gasoline price hikes do not cease.

"We're horrified at reports that dozens of protesters have been killed in Iran, hundreds injured and over 1,000 arrested since Friday," the human rights organization said Monday. "We're alarmed that authorities have shut down the internet to create an information blackout of their brutal crackdown. We're investigating."

The statement followed an ominous warning from the regime's most powerful military force that a harsh security crackdown could be on the cards.

The protests have spread across the Islamic Republic since Friday, turning political with demonstrators demanding that top clerical leaders step down. At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched, state media reported.

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The scale of the unrest triggered by announcements of fuel rationing and price rises of at least 50 percent remains unclear as authorities have curbed Internet access to stop the use of social media to organize rallies and disseminate videos.
But it appears to be the most serious unrest since late 2017 when 22 people were reported to have killed in dozens of cities and towns in protests over poor living standards, with some calling on top figures in the Shiite Muslim elite to resign.
President Hassan Rouhani’s government said the gasoline price rises were intended to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families — or roughly 60 million Iranians on low incomes.
But many ordinary Iranians angry and in despair over reimposed US sanctions that have helped undermine the government’s promises of more jobs and investment, and authorities are anxious to end the unrest.
“If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s heavily armed main security force, said in a statement carried by state media.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday blamed the turmoil on Iran’s opponents and foreign foes, denouncing protesters who attacked public property as “thugs” and “hooligans.”
Some Iranians managed to post social media videos that showed police firing tear gas to disperse protesters. The images could not be verified by Reuters. Authorities said one policeman and a civilian had been killed and 1,000 “rioters” arrested.
“Rioters used knives and guns...A number of security agents and policemen were killed or taken hostage,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a televised news conference.
The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make ends meet became even harder last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the accord.
Frustration has grown over a sharp devaluation of Iran’s rial currency as well as spikes in the prices of bread, rice and other staples since Washington began to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran to make tougher nuclear and security concessions.
Many in oil-producing Iran see cheap gasoline as a fundamental right and the price hike sparked worries about a further squeeze on living costs, despite state assurances that the revenue raised would be put to assisting needy families.


Rockets hit military base hosting US troops near Baghdad airport

Updated 09 December 2019

Rockets hit military base hosting US troops near Baghdad airport

  • Security forces found a rocket launcher and several rockets in a search of the area

BAGHDAD: Several rockets slammed into an Iraqi military complex that hosts US forces next to Baghdad International Airport on Monday, wounding six Iraqi troops, the military said.
Security forces found launchers with rockets that had not been fired properly, indicating a larger attack was planned, a military statement said.
It is the latest in an uptick in rocket attacks targeting either Iraqi bases where American troops are located or the US embassy in Baghdad.
US defense officials have blamed several on Iran-backed factions in Iraq.
Security sources told AFP that the wounded in Monday’s attack belong to Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, an elite unit that was created and trained by US forces.
Two of them are in critical condition, the sources said.
The military complex also hosts a small group of US soldiers and American diplomats.
There have been at least nine attacks against US targets in Iraq in the span of six weeks.
There have been no claims of responsibility and no US forces have been wounded.
Security sources have linked at least one last week to Kataib Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite faction close to Tehran and blacklisted by Washington.
Iran holds vast sway in Iraq, especially among the more hardline elements of the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a security force largely made up of Shiite militia.
A US defense official said the rocket attacks made the Hashed a bigger security threat to American troops in Iraq than the Daesh group, the militant movement which the US has vowed to help Baghdad wipe out.
On Friday the United States imposed sanctions on three senior Hashed figures.
Tensions between Iran and the US have soared since Washington pulled out of a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran last year and reimposed crippling sanctions.
Baghdad — which is close to both countries and whose many security forces have been trained by either the US or Iran — is worried about being caught in the middle.
US officials say they are considering plans to deploy between 5,000 and 7,000 additional troops to the region to counter its arch-foe Iran.