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Iran's Revolutionary Guards warn of 'decisive' crackdown against protesters

Iranian protesters burn a car during a demonstration in Tehran against increased petrol prices [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2019

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Iran's powerful armed force hinted at a looming crackdown against nationwide demonstrations opposing dramatic petrol price hikes, which authorities have blamed on 'hooligans'.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards warned anti-regime protesters they would face "decisive" action if they continue demonstrations against petrol price hikes, according to state television reports on Monday.

The powerful armed organisation hinted at an impending crackdown on protesters, who have taken to the streets across the country since Friday in opposition to an announcement of petrol rationing and price increases of at least 50 percent.

"If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security," the force said in a statement issued by state media.

The last time Iran broke out in mass protests in December 2017, the authorities led a wide-ranging crackdown, arresting an estimated that 3,700 people, equal to nearly ten percent of the roughly 42,000 who took to the streets.

In the Green Movement protests of 2009, the Revolutionary Guards and their affiliated Basij militia waged a violent suppression campaign, killing dozens of pro-reform Iranians.

Iran's leadership has so far dismissed the protesters as "rioters" and "hooligans", and has not backed down on the price hikes.

The foreign ministry criticised US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's support for the protesters, calling them "hypocritical".

"The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of (Pompeo) have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people," the foreign minister said in a statement.

"It's curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America's economic terrorism," he added.

Authorities have also imposed internet disruption in an attempt to quell the rallies.

Cybersecurity NGO Netblocks said a "near-total internet shutdown" had begun on Friday evening, continuing on Monday.

The group said the cut-out presents "a direct threat to the safety and wellbeing of Iranians".

The protests flared hours after it was announced in the early hours of Friday that the price of petrol would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 litres (16 gallons) and by 300 percent for anything above that each month.

A policeman and a protester have so far been killed in the unrest. 

The slain among a group who tried to set fire to a fuel depot but were thwarted by security forces on Saturday.

The price hike was expected to bring in 300 trillion rials ($2.55 billion) per annum, the head of the country's Planning and Budget Organisation, Mohammed Bagher Nobakht, said on state television.

About 60 million Iranians in need would get payments ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.68) for couples to slightly more than two million rials ($17.46) for families with five members or more, he said.

Under the scheme, drivers with fuel cards will pay 15,000 rials (13 US cents) a litre for the first 60 litres of petrol bought each month, with each additional litre costing them 30,000 rials.

Iran's economy is suffering under severe economic sanctions imposed by President Trump since May 2018, when he pulled Washington out of the 2015 deal with world powers that imposed controls on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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