Iran Guards Official Says Khamene Played Crucial Role In Suppressing Protests

Iranian protesters clash in the streets following fuel price increase in the city of Isfahan central Iran

At least 208 people in Iran have been killed amid protests over sharply rising gasoline prices and a subsequent crackdown by security forces, Amnesty International said Monday, as one government official acknowledged telling police to shoot demonstrators.

It also acknowledged killings in Tehran and in its suburb Shahriar, where Amnesty said it had recently learned of "dozens" of deaths.

The state TV report sought to describe killings in four categories, alleging some of those killed were "rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centers with firearms or knives, or have taken hostages in some areas".

Cheap gasoline is practically considered a birthright in Iran, home to the world's fourth-largest crude oil reserves despite decades of economic woes since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"It's something pretty unprecedented in the history of the human rights violations in the Islamic Republic".

The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make ends meet has become harder since previous year when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran's nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have further crippled Iran's oil-based economy.

The protests erupted in cities and towns across Iran on 15 November, after the government announced that the price of petrol would rise by 50% to 15,000 rials a litre ($0.12; £0.09 at the unofficial market exchange rate), and that drivers would be allowed to purchase only 60 litres each month before the price rose to 30,000 rials.

Sitting beside French President Emmanuel Macron later, Trump told journalists that Iran is having "massive riots and protests all over the country".

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Saturday that it was investigating reports that its forces had targeted and shot protesters, the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported, citing Brigadier General Mohammadreza Yazdi.

Other rights groups and sources inside Iran said the death toll was close to 400. It described the suburb as likely one of the areas with the highest death tolls in the unrest.

"The authorities have been threatening families, some have been forced to sign undertakings that they won't speak to the media", she said. That's almost 90 cents a gallon.

Iranians have seen their savings chewed away by the rial's collapse from 32,000 to $1 U.S.at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 127,000 to $1 today under the renewed USA sanctions. That disparity, especially given its oil wealth, fueled the anger felt by demonstrators.

A scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in fuel prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, November 17, 2019.

Already, Iranians have seen their savings chewed away by the rial's collapse from 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 126,000 to $1 today.

The scale of the demonstrations also remains unclear.

Iran has faced growing worldwide criticism and pressure over the security force crackdown on demonstrations that spread across at least 100 cities and towns throughout the Islamic Republic in mid-November.

Hossein Naqavi-Hosseini, a member of parliament's national security committee, said last week that about 7,000 people were arrested during the unrest.

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