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Protests under control in Iran, says Rouhani, as Amnesty reports over 100 dead

Demonstrators on a highway in Tehran, protesting increase increased gas prices 16 November 2019.
Demonstrators on a highway in Tehran, protesting increase increased gas prices 16 November 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency/via Reuters

Iranian President Rouhani on Wednesday claimed victory over unrest he blamed on Iran's foreign enemies. Protests last week over an increase in gasoline prices in Iran left over 100 people killed, according to Amnesty International.

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"The Iranian people have again succeeded at an historic test and shown that they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country's management," Rouhani said in remarks carried by the state broadcaster IRIB.

He said that the thousands of Iranians who joined pro-government rallies on Wednesday is “the greatest sign of the power of the Iranian people”.

Unrest began on Friday after gasoline prices were raised at least 50 per cent and rationing imposed. Motorists blocking major roads in the capital Tehran, and demonstrations spread to at least 40 cities and towns, where petrol pumps were torched, and police stations attacked.

Officials confirmed five deaths, including three security personnel stabbed by "rioters", but rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday that more at least 106 protesters in 21 cities had been killed.

Iran's mission to the United Nations called Amnesty's report "baseless allegations and fabricated figures".

Access to the internet has been restricted, making it nearly impossible for protesters to post social media videos of demonstrations.

Officials said about 1,000 protesters have been arrested.

On Tuesday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the protests had been a security matter, not a popular movement, and had been dealt with successfully.

Iran blamed the protests on "thugs" linked to exiles and foreign enemies - the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Iranians are increasingly frustrated with rising prices for basic food items, since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement and re-imposed sanctions.

The government said the petrol price hike was intended to raise money for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes.

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