Iran - Protest 2019
Petrol in Iran - the world's number five oil producer - is cheaper than in most countries. The government in Iran announced 15 November 2019 that - effective immediately - petrol would be rationed and prices would triple. In the early hours of Friday morning, Iranian state television broadcasted a statement by the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company saying petrol will now be rationed across the country using smart fuel cards. Vehicles for private use are to be restricted to 60 liters (16gal) of fuel monthly, while the price of petrol will jump 50 percent to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13 at open market rates) per liter. Any fuel purchases in excess of allotted rations will incur an additional charge of 30,000 rials ($0.26) per liter.
Iranians, especially those getting by on low- and middle-income wages - had already taken a massive hit due to a currency crisis and an inflationary wave that formed on the back of US sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump last year unilaterally withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal signed between world powers and Iran in 2015.
Iranian officials say the proceeds from the initiative will not go to government coffers but will be used instead to fund subsidies for low-income families. Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, head of the Plan and Budget Organisation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced that the revenues from the initiative will be distributed among 18 million households - about 60 million people - in the form of monthly cash handouts. A family of five or more will receive 2.05 million rials (around $18). This is separate from the 445,000 rials ($3.90) that each household member is eligible to receive under Iran's long-running monthly state cash subsidies plan.
As in many countries, tinkering with the price of gas is politically explosive. After massive protests, the Hassan Rouhani administration was forced to back down from a 2017 plan to increase prices by 50 percent.
By 16 November 2019 at least 65 cities were engulfed in protests. At least 8 people had been confirmed dead (3 in Behbahan, one in Shiraz, one in Sirjan, one in Karaj, one in Khorramshahr, and one in Isfahan). Many people had been injured. The protesters were blocking streets and roadways, and in some cases attacked state security forces offices (in Shiraz). In a district of Tehran (Shahre Ghods), demonstrators attacked the governorate's office and set it on fire. In many places pictures of Khamenei had been set ablaze, chants of "Death to the Dictator," "Death to Rouhani," and "Down with Khamenei" can be heard. In Behbahan, many government buildings including 4 banks had been set on fire. Many vehicles belonging to the state security forces and repressive forces had been overturned and set ablaze. IRGC has recalled all the active duty members and staff from leaves and all have been dispatched to protest scenes. Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Attorney-General, announced that the security forces will deal with the protesters.
The death toll in Iran from protests over gasoline rationing and price hikes of at least 50 percent had risen to 12 over the past two nights. Protests had erupted in at least 37 cities, including Mashhad, Sirjan, Poldokhtar, Ahwaz, Abadan, Khoramshahr, Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Birjand, Bandar Abbas, Bushehr, Shar-e Quds, Damavand, Sanandaj, Bandar Rig, Yazd, Babol, Rasht, Urmia, Garmsar, Neyshabur, Saqqez, Chabahar, Ahar, Rudehen, Eslamshahr, Tehran, Gachsaran, Zahedan, Fardis, Qazvin, Hamedan, Khorramabad, and Kermanshah.
Iranian protesters in Bushehr city call security forces “dishonorable” as the latter uses water cannons in an attempt to disperse the crowds revolting against the government’s decision to ration and hike the price of petrol. Videos being shared on social media showed protesters gathering in squares across the southwestern city of Ahwaz in Iran’s Khuzestan province. One video showed tires being burned to block the roads while another showed a group of protesters shouting anti-regime slogans near a petrol station.
The demonstrations, though not as widespread as the economic protests that shook the country nearly two years ago, put new pressure on the government of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani before parliamentary elections in February 2020. At least 29 people had reportedly been killed since the demonstrations began, and dozens are being treated for injuries. Videos of Iranian security forces dispersing protesters across the country using live ammunition, water cannons and tear gas had been widely circulated on social media. By 17 November 2019 Protests had erupted in at least 53 cities across Iran since the decision was announced.
Iran has almost completely shut off access to the internet across the country as protests over an increase in fuel prices intensified for the second day, cybersecurity NGO Netblocks confirmed in a report 16 November 2019. “Iran is in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown as of 18:45 UTC, Saturday. Real-time network data show connectivity has fallen to just 7% of ordinary levels following twelve hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests have continued across the country,” Netblocks said. “With #IranProtests ongoing, this almost complete internet shutdown is #Iran’s most significant network disruption since Rouhani came to office in 2013,” Small Media, a London-based non-profit that works to increase the flow of information in closed societies across the Middle East and Africa, said. Chants heard in ongoing demonstrations across Iran were evidence Iranians hold long-standing political grievances against the regime, according to experts. Protestors call for “Death to the dictator,” a sign of rising anger against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and “No Gaza. No Lebanon, I give my life for Iran,” in reference to Tehran’s support for Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The chants show petrol is not the focus. Though it was an economic match that lit the fire, the chants prove there are political grievances at the heart of the protests.
Supreme Leader Khamenei says that a gasoline price increase should be implemented, blaming the “counter-revolution and enemies” for “sabotage,” Iranian state TV reported. “I have no background in this topic … but I had said that if the heads of the three branches of government make a decision that I would support it,” said Khamenei, adding: “The heads of the government have made a decision which of course should be implemented.... Some people will certainly be unhappy with this decision. However, damaging and setting fire [to public property] is not the work of the people, but bandits... The counter-revolution and the enemies of Iran have always supported such sabotage and insecurity, and now they are busy doing just that”. The “vigilant” people of Iran should “keep away from those who cause damage [to public property],” he said. Ali Vaez, Director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, noted 21 November 2019 that the Iranian state is trying to establish a link between the protests at home and other ongoing protests in Iraq and Lebanon - all designed to bring the country down. “If you compared the protests we saw in December 2017-January 2018, then, I think the system was much more patient and much more tolerant to demonstrators and was willing to really allow them space to state their anger, but this time around it really appears to me that the system is much more concerned and panicked,” says Ali Vaez.
The crackdown on protests has resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people in 21 cities, wounding hundreds others according to Amnesty International. According to information provided by the Resistance Units inside Iran, 144 cities have now been rocked by anti-regime protests, at least 234 protesters had been killed, over 3,500 wounded, and thousands more arrested. Tehran denies the death toll, saying that only 12 people died, some of which are security forces.
A “world war” against Tehran has been foiled, a militia belonging to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards has announced, describing recent protests over fuel price hikes as a plot instigated by Washington and its allies. “A full-fledged world war against the system and the revolution was born and, fortunately, the child died at the moment of birth,” Brigadier General Salar Abnoosh, a deputy head of the Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said 22 November 2019. The commander accused a “coalition of evil” comprising the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, of being behind several days of unrest in the Islamic Republic. The Revolutionary Guards said that protests had erupted in around 100 cities across Iran after the government raised fuel prices. As a result of the military’s “insight and timely action,” the unrest ended “in less than 24 hours and in some cities in 72 hours,” the Corps claimed.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called 04 December 2019 for the release of any unarmed and innocent people arrested during the protests against fuel price increases after two weeks of violent clashes. The unrest, which began on November 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300 percent, spread to more than 100 Iranian cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded the religious leaders step down.
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said 05 December 2019 that Iranian security forces may have killed more than 1,000 people since protests over gasoline price hikes started in mid-November. “As the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began,” Hook told reporters at the State Department. He said the US has seen video of one incident in which more than 100 people were shot and killed. Hook added that “many thousands of Iranians” had also been wounded and at least 7,000 detained in Iran’s prisons.
Amnesty International reported 16 December 2019 that Iranian authorities were continuing a “brutal campaign of repression” following the November 2019 nationwide protests during which at least 304 people were killed. The London-based human rights watchdog said the authorities were carrying out a "vicious crackdown," arresting thousands of protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, and students to “stop them from speaking out about Iran’s ruthless repression.” According to the group’s Middle East and North Africa research director, Philip Luther, "Harrowing testimony from eyewitnesses suggests that, almost immediately after the Iranian authorities massacred hundreds of those participating in nationwide protests, they went on to orchestrate a wide-scale clampdown".
Reuters reported 23 December 2019 that after days of protests across Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared impatient. Gathering his top security and government officials together, on 17 November 2019 he issued an order: Do whatever it takes to stop them. That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and a fourth official, set in motion the bloodiest crackdown on protesters since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on November 15. The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police. “Our Imam,” said one official, referring to Khamenei, “only answers to God. He cares about people and the Revolution. He was very firm and said those rioters should be crushed.”
One of the reasons that the recent events caused panic in the system is because it has coincided with other unrest in Iraq, Lebanon, Venezuela, Hong Kong and Chile. From the perspective of new sociologists studying the world on a global scale, this event is a global event of people who had reached a threshold below which it is impossible to live. Although some of them are still able to afford and have not fallen to the lowest class, but have many factors in common, including that they have become disillusioned, dissatisfied, changing their lifestyles and social confusion, so they are deprived of social identity and unable to reconcile themselves with their identities. The middle classes begin to fall into the lower classes.
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