Iran’s police said Friday they forcefully dispersed a protest by a crowd chanting “norm-breaking” slogans in the southwest of the country over economic hardships.
“Following a call, a small number of Behbahan city’s people gathered at 9 pm on Thursday to protest the economic situation,” Behbahan city’s police chief Colonel Mohammad Azizi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
Protesters in Southwest of Iran
Iran’s police force first tried to talk to the crowd protesting “but not only did they not disperse but started shouting norm-breaking chants”, he said, a term usually used by Iranian authorities to refer to anti-system slogans.
Security forces broke up the protest with “firmness”, the police chief said, adding that “calm” was restored without casualties or damage to properties.
Regime’s security forces are once again using live ammunition against protesters, just 8 months since the mass killing of November protests. The brave people of Behbahan in south west Iran had called for liberty once again last night.#IranProtests2020 pic.twitter.com/AAeDhk3Ypv
— Abdolreza the Honest (@PersianHonest) July 17, 2020
Azizi did not specify if arrests were made.
Unverified social media posts showed images and videos of dozens of people apparently gathered in a street of the city in Khuzestan province.
Netblocks, a website that monitors shutdowns, said internet access was restricted and disrupted for about three hours in Khuzestan around the time of the protest.
Khuzestan is a key oil-producing region that has often complained of official neglect.
Bordering Iraq, it is one of the few areas in mainly Shiite Iran to have a large ethnic Sunni Arab community.
Iran issues death sentences for ‘thugs’ in last years protests
The gathering in Behbahan came days after Iran upheld death sentences for three people linked to deadly protests last November sparked by a hike in petrol prices.
On Thursday, a group of UN rights experts called on Iran to overturn the sentences.
“Today we join hundreds of thousands of Iranians on social media who condemned these death sentences,” said the more than a dozen independent UN experts, on issues like arbitrary executions, freedom of assembly and torture.
“We urge the head of the judiciary to immediately quash this decision and to grant a prompt and independent judicial review,” they said in a statement.
The case of Moradi, Tamjidi, and Rajabi “is not an isolated incident,” the UN experts said, adding: “There are widespread reports of arbitrary detention of protesters and torture to obtain false confessions. Other individuals have also reportedly been imprisoned and possibly sentenced to death for their participation in the protests.”
They called on Iran to conduct an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the events of November 2019, to prosecute state officials involved in rights violations and to set free anyone detained for peacefully protesting.
Iran is under pressure to halt the executions of three men arrested during anti-government protests in 2019, after the country's Supreme Court upheld their sentences https://t.co/8WZueSxiHN
— CNN (@CNN) July 17, 2020
The demonstrations in November broke out after authorities more than doubled fuel prices overnight, exacerbating economic hardships in the sanctions-hit country.
The protests rocked several cities and turned violent before spreading to at least 100 urban centres across Iran and being put down amid a near-total internet blackout.
Calls have spread online using the hashtag “DontExecute” for a halt to executions in the country.
Iran’s economy has shrunk significantly since 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed punishing sanctions on the country.
The coronavirus epidemic has exacerbated Iran’s economic woes with a temporary shutdown of the economy and reduced exports, leading to a sharp devaluation of its currency and rising inflation.
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Behbahan police chief Azizi urged Iranians “not to be influenced by the system’s enemies” aiming “to agitate the people in the current sensitive situation”.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards announced in separate statements that they arrested a number of “agitators” and also broke up a “terrorist group” on Thursday.
Those arrested in Mashhad city were “connected to anti-revolutionary groups” and had made calls for street protests.
In the city of Shiraz, members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), an exiled group which Tehran considers a “terrorist cult”, were detained preventing a “subversive operation”, the Guards said.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk