Iran’s Ayatollah warns 'thugs' as protests escalate over increase gas prices

Cheryl Sanders
November 19, 2019

Fars News reported that Javad Karim Ghodousi, a member of Iran's powerful foreign policy and national security commission, said the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council had claimed that members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq were active in the protests and have been arrested. "We can not let insecurity in the country through riots", Iran's pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani said, TV reported.

In a speech on Sunday, Khamenei said he would support rationing and increasing gas prices because heads of three branches of government - the presidency, judiciary and parliament - had made the decision.

Authorities have restricted internet access in Iran, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Sunday, after nearly two days of nationwide protests triggered by a petrol price hike.

The Associated Press reported that Iran also experienced wide disruptions and outages of internet service on Friday and Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access.

Mahsa Alimardani, a digital-rights researcher with the human rights organization ARTICLE19, says that "suspect" incidents in Iran's Internet connectivity in the past year had anxious activists that the Islamic republic was practicing how to disconnect the country from the Internet.

One person died in the southeastern city of Sirjan on Friday, officials said, while social media cited several others as fuel price protests turned political with slogans calling for top officials to step down.

Iran's heavily-armed and much-feared Revolutionary Guards appeared to suggest a crackdown was on the cards in a statement which said: "If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people's peace and security".

Iran's economy has been battered since May a year ago when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the USA from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

"We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators", the White House said.

Three security personnel have been killed by "rioters" in Iran, the latest deaths in protests that showed no sign of subsiding Tuesday despite a wave of arrests and an internet shutdown. "Tehran has fanatically pursued nuclear weapons and missile programs, and supported terrorism, turning a proud nation into another cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people". Once the limit is exceeded, a liter of the fuel would cost double that.

The government said Monday had been "calmer", despite "some minor issues".

As the violence spread, some Iranians managed to post social media videos showing police firing tear gas to disperse protesters. The images could not be verified by Reuters. "Only some minor problems remain, and by tomorrow and the day after, there will remain no riots", he told the global media.

The Iranian leadership is anxious to end the unrest to avoid giving ammunition to Western, especially U.S., criticism of the Islamic Republic elite as allegedly corrupt and unaccountable. "Let them speak!" U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Twitter on Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, AFP journalists saw two petrol stations in central Tehran gutted by fire and damage to other infrastructure including a police station and pedestrian overpass.

Other reports by iNewsToday