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Iran's Rouhani claims victory over protests

By
Darryl Coote
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani claimed victory Wednesday over nationwide protests that erupted last week over a substantial hike to the cost of fuel. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani claimed victory Wednesday over nationwide protests that erupted last week over a substantial hike to the cost of fuel. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said government forces have suppressed a mass protest that erupted last week over a hike in fuel prices, according to state media.

"The Iranian nation came victorious out of yet another historic test and showed that despite the country's economic problems and existing grievances about the manner of its management, they would never allow the balance to tilt in favor of the enemy," Rouhani said during a cabinet meeting in the capital of Tehran on Wednesday, state-run Press TV reported.

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Rouhani said the government's strong response has ended the protest, which he claims was orchestrated by a few well-organized "hooligans" on behalf of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other adversarial nations.

"Our people have foiled the enemies' plots in face of different incidents, and they became victorious in the recent plots that the enemies had hatched," he said.

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Protests erupted nationwide Friday over a substantial price hike in the cost of gasoline and a cut to fuel subsidies.

The protests were met with a strong government response and a near-total shutdown of the Internet. Iran said it arrested 1,000 people and over 100 banks and 57 large stores were set on fire during the protests.

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The United Nations said it has been difficult to verify information but Iranian officials have said only a handful of people have died though Iranian and other sources suggest "dozens" have been killed.

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Amnesty International said at least 106 people have been killed since the protests began but that the number could be as high as 200 though information is hard to verify.

On Wednesday, the United Nations called on Iran to reestablish the nation's Internet access.

"We have seen the reports of a significant death toll during recent protests in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Secretary General spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. "We echo the statement on Iran made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday, including the call to immediately re-establish Iranian's access to the Internet."

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Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders condemned the throttling of the Internet Wednesday, calling access to online news and information a fundamental right for the 80 million Iranians in the country.

"We deplore this latest crackdown on freedom of information in Iran and we urge David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to intercede as quickly as possible to protect Iranians' fundamental rights," said Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Iran-Afghanistan desk.

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Human Rights Watch said despite the near-total Internet blackout, Iranians have posted footage of security forces shooting directly at protesters.

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"Authorities are brutally repressing Iranians who are frustrated with an autocratic, abusive government and its policies and who bear the brunt of negative economic consequences of renewed U.S. sanctions," Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East director Michael Page said in a statement. "By severing Iranians form global Internet connectivity, the authorities are hoping to hide their bloody crackdown on their own people from the rest of the world."

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