DUBAI: Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards warned anti-government protesters on Monday of “decisive” action if unrest over petrol price hikes doesn’t not cease, state media said, in a hint that a harsh security crackdown could be on the cards.
The protests have spread across the country since Friday, turning political with demonstrators demanding that top clerical leaders step down. At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched, state media reported.
“If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s heavily armed main security force, said in a statement carried by state media.
The breadth of the disturbances sparked by announcements of fuel rationing and price rises of at least 50 per cent remains unclear as authorities have curbed internet access to stop the use of social media to organise rallies and disseminate videos.
Some Iranians managed to post social media videos that showed police firing tear gas to disperse protesters. The images could not be verified.
Authorities said several people, including members of the security forces and policemen, had been killed and around 1,000 “rioters” arrested, some for using guns and knives.
President Hassan Rouhani’s government said the petrol price rises were intended to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families — or roughly 60 million Iranians — struggling on low incomes.
Some officials and insiders said the establishment would eventually gain from the turmoil by securing a high turnout at parliamentary elections in February, seen as a litmus test for the popularity of the Islamic Republic at home.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2019