The United Nations (UN) voiced alarm Tuesday at reports dozens may have been killed in Iranian demonstrations, as the Islamic republic said it would unblock the internet only once calm has been restored.
Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed across Iran in five days since security forces were ordered to “crush” the protests triggered by fuel price rises.
Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when the United States unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.
Iran’s shock decision to increase fuel prices Friday sparked the protests in which authorities have confirmed at least five deaths, including three security personnel officials say were stabbed and fatally wounded by “rioters.”
The UN rights office said it was alarmed by reports live ammunition was being used against protesters and had caused a “significant number of deaths across the country.”
But its spokesman Rupert Colville cautioned that casualty details were hard to verify, in part because of a three-day-old internet shutdown.
“Iranian media and a number of other sources suggest dozens of people may have been killed and many people injured during protests in at least eight different provinces, with over 1,000 protesters arrested,” he told reporters in Geneva.
“We urge the Iranian authorities and security forces to avoid the use of force to disperse peaceful assemblies.”
Colville also called on protesters to demonstrate peacefully, “without resorting to physical violence or destruction of property.”
Agence France-Presse journalists saw two petrol stations in Tehran gutted by fire and damage to infrastructure, including a police station.
State television showed footage of rallies against “rioting” held in the northwestern city of Tariz and in Shahr-e Kord, central Iran.
“Protesting is the people’s right, rioting is the work of enemies,” they chanted in Tabriz, according to Fars news agency. When the demonstrations began on Friday, drivers stopped on major thoroughfares in Tehran to block traffic.
The protests soon turned violent and spread to more than 40 cities and towns, with banks, petrol stations and other public property set ablaze and shops looted. AFP