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Protests strike Iran cities over petrol prices rising

A woman fills her car at a gas station in Tehran, Iran, on Friday, November 15, 2019.

A woman fills her car at a gas station in Tehran, Iran, on Friday, November 15, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AP

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The demonstrations, though not as widespread as the economic protests that shook the country nearly two years ago, put new pressure on the government of Iran President Hassan Rouhani.

Overnight protests roiling several Iranian cities continued into Saturday, sparked by the government cutting back on gasoline subsidies and increasing costs by 50%, with demonstrations ranging from people abandoning their cars in traffic to trying to attack an oil depot in one city.

The demonstrations, though not as widespread as the economic protests that shook the country nearly two years ago, put new pressure on the government of Iran President Hassan Rouhani.

As parliamentary elections loom in February, Mr. Rouhani has been trying to pitch Iran on the idea of staying in his landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The accord is unraveling after U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from it over a year ago.

In Mashhad, Iran second-largest city, dozens of demonstrators abandoned their cars in traffic to protest, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. The protest ended when police warned demonstrators to disperse, IRNA said.

Protests require prior approval from Iran Interior Ministry, though authorities routinely allow small-scale demonstrations over economic issues, especially as the country has struggled with currency devaluation.

Violence broke out in Sirjan, some 800 km southeast of Tehran. IRNA said protesters tried to set fire to the oil depot, but they were stopped by police.It did not elaborate, but online videos circulating Iran purported to show fire at the depot as sirens wailed in the background. Another showed a large crowd shouting, “Rouhani, shame on you! Leave the country alone!”

In Iran oil-rich Khuzestan province, online videos purported to show police firing tear gas on crowds.

The demonstrations continued on November 16, the first day of the Iranian work week. In Tehran, blanketed by the season first snowfall, drivers stopped traffic on the Imam Ali Highway, chanting for the police to support them, according to online videos. People gathered in the city of Kermanshah and chanted o not be afraid, we are all together,another video showed.

State media did not immediately report on Saturday morning demonstrations. However, the online videos corresponded to Associated Press reporting and knowledge.

It wasn immediately clear if police made arrests or if anyone had been injured in the demonstrations. Iranian state television aired a segment Friday night trying to dispute the claims of opposition satellite news channels about the protests, calling their videos of demonstrations fake news in English. Iranian internet access meanwhile saw disruptions and outages Friday night into Saturday morning, suggesting response to limit attendance and media coverage of the protests,according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access.

Iran announced the cuts to gasoline subsidies at midnight Friday without any prior warning. It came after months of speculation over possible rationing. Iranian officials say the proceeds from Friday price hikes are earmarked to fund subsidies for low-income families.

Gasoline prices jumped to a minimum of 15,000 rials per litre of gas 50% up from the day before.

Iranian authorities have allocated a limit of 60 litres per month for every private car at about 13 cents per litre, and beyond that quota, the price jumps to 26 cents per litre, according to Iranian state media.

Previously, drivers were allowed up to 250 litres at 8 cents per litre, or 10,000 rials.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 1:09:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/protests-strike-iran-cities-over-petrol-prices-rising/article29991753.ece

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