Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that a pro-government rally in Tehran’s Enghelab Square on Monday will condemn “rioters” and show the world who the “real” Iranians are and “what they are saying,” after foreign leaders expressed support for protests against Iran’s rise in fuel prices.
Yesterday, Iranian authorities announced it would punish what they called “mercenaries” arrested over causing civil unrest, adding that calm has been restored to the country.
“We recognize the right to peaceful assembly…But the situation is different for rioters … and groups which take direction (from abroad) and are armed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks in state television.
“We are surprised that the foreign minister of a certain country has stooped so low as to ask for videos of bank-burnings … be sent to them,” Mousavi said, referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s request to Iranian protesters on Twitter last week to send the US any photos or videos of crackdowns on demonstrations.
“The United States will publicize and condemn the persecution of protesters,” Pompeo said.
Rights group Amnesty International announced last week that Iranian security forces shot into protest crowds from roof tops and from a helicopter.
Following reports on the high number of deaths during protests in Iran, the French government also called on Iran to comply with international human rights.
Weeks of civil unrest
Iranian civilians began protests on November 15, hours after the government’s sudden announcement that petrol prices were being raised by as much as 200% with immediate effect.
Tehran justified the fuel price spike by saying it would allow the government to provide welfare payments to those in need, following the severe side-effects of US reimposed sanctions after Iran withdrew from a nuclear deal.
Demonstrations grew into anti-government protests, taking a violent turn where banks, petrol stations and dozens of buildings were set on fire and shops looted, and highways were blocked.
Tehran then imposed a near-total internet blackout for a week in an attempt to prevent the circulation of videos showing violence. Connectivity returned Sunday across much of the country with the exception of its mobile telephone networks, which were still partially disrupted, according to NetBlocks, a web connectivity watchdog.
Mousavi had compared the internet block to “turning off gas pipes if there is a city-wide fire,” saying it was done for security purposes.
Death toll and arrests
Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed and that the real toll could be as high as 200. Iran has rejected death toll figures as “speculative” and confirmed five deaths in the unrest.
Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and countries including the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for igniting unrest. Authorities have said about 1,000 protesters have been arrested. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said the number was likely closer to 4,000.
“We have arrested all stooges and mercenaries who have explicitly made confessions that they have been mercenaries of America, of Monafeghin and others,” said Rear-Admiral Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander in chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Monafeghin refers to the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), an opposition group in exile.
mvb/ng (AFP, Reuters)