Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 January 2020

Iran protests: President Rouhani claims victory and blames foreign enemies

Iran's President has claimed victory over protests against fuel price hikes as pro-government rallies sprang up around the country.

Iranian women take part during a funeral ceremony of Revolutionary Guard member Morteza Ebrahimi who was killed during the protests last week. EPA
Iranian women take part during a funeral ceremony of Revolutionary Guard member Morteza Ebrahimi who was killed during the protests last week. EPA

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has claimed victory on Wednesday over protests against fuel price hikes, which he blamed on foreign enemies, as pro-government rallies sprang up around the country.

Amnesty International said on Tuesday that over 100 people have been killed in the unrest, which began on Friday, and state media said members of the security forces have also been killed.

"The Iranian people have again succeeded in a historic test and shown they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country's management," Mr Rouhani said, according to state broadcaster IRIB.

Iran's Fars news agency said duel national's were among those arrested at the fuel protests, and on Wednesday thousands of Iranians joined pro-government rallies in Rasht, Gorgan and Ardabil in the north, Hamadan in the West, and Shahryar, south of the capital Tehran.

"The spontaneous (pro-government) demonstrations which you see are the greatest sign of the power of the Iranian people," Mr Rouhani said.

State media carried pictures of Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's top security body, marching in Shahryar behind a banner that read "Death to America and Israel's deception!"

Iran has blamed "thugs" linked to exiles and foreign enemies — the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia — for the protests, which began after petrol prices were raised by at least 50 per cent and rationing imposed.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday the protests had been a security matter, not a popular movement, and had been dealt with successfully.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said a plot to bomb Iran's major gas production installations in Assalouyeh on the Gulf had been thwarted, blaming it on protesters, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported.

Iran has restricted access to the internet, making it nearly impossible for protesters to post social media videos of demonstrations, and about 1,000 protesters have been arrested, officials said.

The UN human rights office said it had received reports that dozens of people had been killed. It urged authorities to rein in its use of force to disperse protests.

Frustration has grown over a weakening currency and rising prices for bread, rice and other staples since the US withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions.

The government said the price rises were intended to raise around US$2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes.

Updated: November 20, 2019 03:53 PM

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