Iran: Rouhani calls for release of 'innocent, unarmed' protesters

Nellie Chapman
December 4, 2019

"The acknowledgment came in a television package that criticized worldwide Farsi-language channels for their reporting on the crisis, which began on November 15", the Associated Press reports.

Amnesty International said Monday it believes at least 208 people were killed in the protests and the crackdown that followed.

Protests erupted in several of Iran's provinces in November, following the government's decision to increase the price of gasoline, with some of the rallies turning violent.

"Religious and Islamic clemency should be shown and those innocent people who protested against petrol price hikes and were not armed. should be released", Rouhani said in a televised speech. The restoration of the internet in recent days across much of the country has seen other videos surface. "This alarming death toll is further evidence that Iran's security forces went on a horrific killing spree that left at least 208 people dead in less than a week", reads a statement from Amnesty International research and advocacy director for the Middle East Philip Luther released with the organization's findings.

Mansoureh Mills, an Iran researcher at Amnesty, said there was a "general environment of fear inside of Iran at the moment".

Iranians are no strangers to protests.

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.

A correspondent said "rioters" had attacked sensitive or military sites with guns or knives, and taken people hostage, leaving security forces with no choice to "resort to authoritative and tough confrontation" to save lives. It categorised those killed as "armed thugs and rioters", security personnel, passers-by hit by crossfire or victims of "suspicious shootings". The surrounding oil-rich province's Arab population long has complained of discrimination by Iran's central government and insurgent groups have attacked area oil pipelines in the past there.

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Online video purportedly from the area showed peaceful protests, as well as clashes between demonstrators and security forces, although the protesters appeared to be armed largely with rocks and debris.

State TV acknowledged confronting "rioters" in Tehran.

Dozens of deaths were recorded in Shahriar, one of the cities with the highest death toll, Amnesty said.

The government had previously acknowledged the deaths of only a handful of people and continues to decline to give an official estimate of the total number killed, but officials in the country have talked publicly in recent days of ordering security forces to fire on demonstrators trying to storm government buildings. Shahriar had seen heavy protests.

"Some families are also being forced to make extortionate payments to have the bodies of their loved ones returned to them", the watchdog said.

Authorities also have been visiting hospitals, looking for patients with gunshot wounds or other injuries from the unrest, Mills said.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the number could be higher.

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