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Petrol price hike sparks deadly unrest in Iran

AFP, Tehran
Petrol price hike sparks deadly unrest in Iran
Iranian protesters gather around a burning motorcycle during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Isfahan, on Saturday. AFP Photo

Iran’s supreme leader yesterday threw his support behind a decision to hike petrol prices, a move that sparked nationwide unrest in which he said “some lost their lives”.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed “hooligans” for damaging property and said “all the centres of the world’s wickedness against us have cheered” the street protests.

A policeman was killed in the western city of Kermanhshah in a clash with armed “rioters”, the second confirmed death since protests erupted across Iran on Friday.

Several people were also wounded and dozens arrested in two days of demonstrations that saw motorists block highways and others attack and set fire to public property. In a speech aired on state television, Khamenei said “some lost their lives and some centres were damaged”.

The protests flared hours after it was announced 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.

It is a rise many consumers can ill afford, given that Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The rial has plummeted, inflation is running at more than 40 percent and the International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s economy to contract by 9.5 percent this year and stagnate in 2020.

The petrol pricing plan was agreed by the High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief.

Khamenei said that “I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it.

“The heads of the branches made a decision with the backing of expert opinion and naturally it must be implemented,” he said.

“Some people would definitely get upset over this decision... but damaging and setting fire (to property) is not something (normal) people would do. It is hooligans.”

Following his speech, parliament cancelled a motion to reverse the price hike, semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

Khamenei also pointed at opponents abroad in what he called “the centres of the world’s wickedness”.

These included the Pahlavi royal family ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) group, which Iran considers a “terrorist” cult.

“What I am asking is that no one help these criminals,” Khamenei said, calling on people to distance themselves from those stoking the protests.

Some of the worst violence was in the central city of Sirjan, where acting governor Mohammad Mahmoudabadi said a civilian was killed and fuel stations were among the public property attacked and damaged.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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