Five hundred Iranian political and civil activists and Amnesty International in separate statements Tuesday warned about the government’s heavy-handed suppression of protesters.
The activists in their statement urged the government of President Ebrahim Raisi to adopt a fundamental solution to the problems that the country is currently grappling with, particularly the issue of soaring prices and very high inflation, and to reform faulty structures and change policies while showing tolerance towards protesters.
Activists also warned that suppression of protests and arresting protesters would only make the situation worse and add fuel to the fire.
Protests that began in the southwestern province of Khuzestan over a week ago triggered by a sudden jump in food prices have spread to other provinces and have continued, mainly in smaller towns. The protests have quickly taken an anti-government tone and protesters often chant slogans against authorities, including the supreme leader, the president, and the ruling clerics. In some instances, protesters have attacked local headquarters of the Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) whose members are often deployed to suppress protesters.
In larger cities such as the capital Tehran, Mashhad, Zanjan and Shiraz security forces have displayed a heavy presence on the streets, creating an atmosphere of fear and apprehension.
Three civilians killed in the past week in Iran
So far at least six protesters have been shot, in the head or chest, by security forces in western provinces of Khuzestan as well as Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari and around one hundred have been arrested in various cities.
The global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, also said in a statement Tuesday that it is the human right of people in Iran to "organize and take part in peaceful protests free from intimidation, violence and threats of arbitrary arrest, torture and unjust prosecution”. Amnesty urged Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “rein in security forces to prevent further bloodshed.”
Amnesty also said access to the internet is essential to protect human rights, especially during protests. “Iran’s authorities must stop the pattern of internet shutdowns used to silence people in Iran and cover their human rights violations, including by security forces.”
The global rights watchdog also urged the international community, including the UN Human Rights Council states, to pressure the Iranian authorities to stop the recurrent pattern of using lethal force and pursue accountability through an independent UN mechanism.
In exclusive comments to Iran International on Monday, a US spokesman also condemned the use of violence by security forces against protesters and supported their right to peaceful assembly. “We are witnessing brave Iranian protestors demand that their government address their concerns amid rising commodity prices and water and electricity shortages. We have also seen deeply disturbing reports of security forces firing on protesters. Again, we condemn the use of violence against peaceful protestors,” he said.
The spokesman also condemned the disruption of internet services in many cities and towns by the government who wants to prevent news reaching the world about the protests and the violence used against unarmed citizens.
Monday evening a young man, Jamshid Mokhtari, was shot dead by security forces in Jouneghan, a small town in Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari province. Social media reports Tuesday said the Internet had completely shut down in Jouneghan and security forces were shooting at protesters.
More Protests were reported in Golpayegan in the central province of Esfahan Tuesday where people took to the streets for the first time.