At Least 304 Killed in Iran Protests, Amnesty International Says

December 17, 2019 Updated: December 17, 2019
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Amnesty International said Dec. 16 that at least 304 people were killed in last month’s anti-government protests in Iran, a significantly higher number than what the rights group had reported previously.

The protests, which lasted about four days in several cities and towns in Iran in November, were sparked by a sharp rise in gasoline prices. During the violence and in the days that followed, Iranian authorities blocked access to the internet.

Amnesty said that Iranian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing scores. Iranian authorities subsequently arrested thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students in a sweeping crackdown to prevent them from speaking up about the protests, the London-based watchdog said.

Tehran has yet to release any statistics about the scale of the unrest, although two weeks ago, the government acknowledged that the security forces had shot and killed protesters. Iranian state media referred to some of those shot and killed as “rioters.”

Amnesty said earlier this month that at least 208 were killed in the Nov. 15-18 protests. It didn’t provide an explanation for the new and higher death toll, reiterating that it had spoken to dozens of people inside the country and had compiled credible reports.

The majority of the deaths recorded by Amnesty were the result of gunshots to the head, heart, and other vital organs. Among those killed, according to Amnesty, was a 15-year-old boy in the city of Shiraz who was shot as he passed a protest on his way from school.

Amnesty said Iranian authorities had carried out a “wide-scale clampdown designed to instill fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened.”

“Iran’s authorities are…arresting thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s ruthless repression,” it said.

The rights group had noted how during the protests, Iran shut down internet access, blocking those inside the country from sharing videos and limiting knowledge about the full scale of the turmoil.

The protests were rooted in widespread economic discontent that has gripped the country since President Donald Trump imposed sanctions after withdrawing the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Tensions between Iran and the United States and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, have risen since Washington pulled out of a deal in 2018 between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iran announced on Nov. 4 that it’s doubled the number of uranium centrifuges it operates, to 60 from 30, further violating the deal it made with world powers in 2015.

Iran has repeatedly announced actions in violation of the deal, trying to pressure its European signatories to make up for the economic impact of the U.S. sanctions since the United States withdrew from the deal.

Iran’s national currency, the rial, has sharply plunged from the time of the 2015 nuclear accord while daily staples have risen in price.