PortandTerminal.com, November 20, 2019
Anger over a sharp hike in fuel prices sparks massive demonstrations in oil-rich Iran. Security forces using live ammunition on protestors. Claims that a “shoot-to-kill” order is in effect.
TEHRAN, IRAN – The US sanctions on Iran have been brutal on the Iranian people. Unemployment is high, the currency’s value has been halved and inflation sits at 40%. People are struggling just to survive.
In the past week, life became even harder for the Iranian people after an abrupt decision by the government to increase fuel prices.
Iranians erupt in fury over fuel price increase
On November 15th, after the Iranian authorities rolled out the fuel rationing scheme and slashed fuel subsidies, prices at the pump soared by 50 percent. Thanks to the US imposed sanctions Iran has almost no export market for its oil. The gasoline price increase at the pumps are a desperate attempt by the government to blunt the effects of those sanctions.
The Last Straw
Iran, which is a major oil producer, has some of the most heavily subsidized gasoline prices in the world. With the hike, it still costs just 13 cents a liter (up 50%) for the first 60 liters and 27 cents after that. By Western standards, the fuel price increase doesn’t sound like much. But it was still too much for many Iranians. One journalist put it succinctly calling the fuel price hikes the “last straw” for Iranian people.
In response to the fuel price increases, people across the country took to the streets in protest. In the capital Tehran motorists blocked major roads before the unrest spread rapidly to at least 100 urban centres, with gasoline pumps torched, police stations attacked and shops looted.
Iranian security forces have reacted harshly and are being accused of using live ammunition on protestors. Both the White House and Amnesty International are reporting that 106 protesters in 100 towns and cities have been killed already. One human rights group is reporting that Iranian authorities are operating a “shoot-to-kill” policy to crackdown on protesters.
“Hospitals are reporting that the majority of deaths and injuries are from gunshot wounds to the head and upper torso, underlining the widespread fears that the regime is operating a ‘shoot to kill’ policy.”
Predictably, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has blamed the protests on “armed anarchists” who took to the streets “based on a plot that the region’s reactionary, the Zionists and Americans had hatched,” referring to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued instructions that the protest movement be “crushed at whatever cost” on Sunday, according to reports. Amnesty International, citing eyewitness accounts corroborated by video footage, said snipers on rooftops, and in one case a helicopter, have been shooting into crowds of people.
Iranian authorities have not offered a definitive account of how many people have been arrested, injured or killed in the protests that spread quickly across at least 100 cities and towns.
Authorities shut down internet access to the outside world on Saturday, which has outraged many. But demonstrations are reportedly continuing in some cities.
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