Amnesty International, citing “credible reports”, said Tuesday it believes at least 106 people in 21 cities have been killed during protests in Iran over a rise in government-set gasoline prices.
Amnesty added that it “believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed”.
The UN human rights office said Tuesday that "dozens" of people may have been killed in the Iranian protests since Friday.
Iran has since shut down the internet and deployed police and anti-riot forces to quell the unrest. Demonstrations are believed to still be going on in the country.
In its report, Amnesty noted that “verified video footage, eyewitness testimony from people on the ground and information gathered from human rights activists outside Iran reveal a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by Iranian security forces, which have used excessive and lethal force to crush largely peaceful protests”.
Calling on the Iranian authorities to respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director, said, “The authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately and show respect for human life.”
‘Excessive lethal force’
Speaking to FRANCE 24, Luther said Iranian security forces had used “excessive lethal force” to crush the largely peaceful protests. “The patterns that we have seen include security forces using firearms, water cannons, tear gas to disperse protests and beating demonstrators with batons," he continued. "Images of bullet casings left on the ground as well as the shockingly high death toll indicate that live ammunition has been used.”
According to Iranian state media, more than 1,000 protesters had been arrested since the protests began last week.
Luther voiced his concern for the detainees, particularly for human rights defender Sepideh Gholian, who was arrested on November 17 while peacefully holding up a sign about the fuel price hike. “Among those who have been arrested are at least one human rights activist that we know of, and our concerns are clearly about her because of the way in which Iranian authorities have been cracking down on human rights defenders more generally in recent years,” he explained.
Protesters threatened with execution
Hard-liners in Iran meanwhile threatened violent protesters Tuesday with executions by hanging as sporadic demonstrations still gripped pockets of the country.
Officials also haven’t given any public accounting for the overall toll of the violence. State media showed video of burned Korans at one mosque in the suburbs of the capital, Tehran, as well as pro-government rallies.
Absent though in the coverage was an acknowledgement of what sparked the demonstrations in the first place. The hike in gasoline prices represents yet another burden on Iranians who have suffered through a painful currency collapse, following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and the re-imposition of crippling US sanctions.
Relatively moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has promised that the fuel price rise will be used to fund subsidies for low-income families. But the decision has unleashed widespread anger among Iranians.
Maryam Kazemi, a 29-year-old accountant in the southern Tehran suburb of Khaniabad, said that the hefty hike in fuel prices was “putting pressure on ordinary people”.
“It was a bad decision at a bad time. The economic situation has long been difficult for people and Rouhani unexpectedly implemented the decision on fuel,” she said.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)