Friday, 13 December, 2019


Could a Clash Between Iranians and Khamenei Over Price Hikes Spiral?

Iran racked by protests after massive gas price hike Iran's Khamenei blames enemies for 'sabotage' in gasoline price protests
Bennie Garza | 18 November, 2019, 05:13

Iran's supreme leader on Sunday, commenting on widespread protests over the government's decision to increase gasoline prices by 50 percent, denounced protesters who have attacked public property as "thugs".

"Some people are no doubt anxious by this decision ... but sabotage and arson is done by hooligans not our people", the Iranian Supreme Leader said in a live speech on state TV.

"The counter-revolution and Iran's enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so", Khamenei said.

In an address aired Sunday by state television, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "some lost their lives and some places were destroyed", without elaborating.

Semi-official news agency ISNA said the protests had "mostly subsided" by Sunday evening, a report that could not be verified due to the online outage and limited news from agencies.

Gasoline in the country has remained among the cheapest in the world, with the new prices jumping 50 percent to a minimum of 15,000 rials per liter.

It was the second confirmed death since protests erupted across Iran on Friday after the announcement of a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing.

"The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth", the group said.

Smoke rises during a protest after authorities raised fuel prices, in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, Nov. 16, 2019.

Many use their cars not just to get around themselves but to provide informal taxi services to others, so - regardless your opinion on whether using fossil fuels is something to be defended or not - hiking up the prices cuts right to ordinary people's daily lives, and has served as the spark for protest in the country over bigger frustrations with the government and economy, as Iran continues to struggle under the weight of United States sanctions.

Khamenei ordered security forces "to implement their tasks" and for Iran's citizens to keep clear of violent demonstrators. "We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators".

However, he made a point to back the decision of Iran's relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani and others to raise gasoline prices. He called the protesters "thugs" who had been pushed into violence by counterrevolutionaries and foreign enemies of Iran.

Netblocks, an internet monitoring website, said late Saturday the country was in the grip of a shutdown.

Forty "disruptors" were arrested in the central city of Yazd after clashing with police, the province's public prosecutor told ISNA on Sunday.

Iran has been hit hard by the reimposition of USA sanctions a year ago after President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

"The main elements behind the disturbances of the past two days have been identified and appropriate action is being taken", the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The U.S. State Department immediately condemned "the attempted shutdown of the internet" in a tweet on November 17, calling on the Iranian government to "Let them speak".

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