UN calls on Iran for restraint amid reports of rising death toll among protesters


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of live ammunition being used against demonstrators and has urged Iran to end its shutdown of the internet and ensure its security services show restraint after the “clearly very serious” extent of casualties in protests that have swept the country in response to steep petrol price rises.

“We are especially alarmed that the use of live ammunition has allegedly caused a significant number of deaths across the country,” the UN spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement, adding that it had been “extremely difficult” to verify the overall death toll.

It remains unclear how many people have been arrested, injured or killed in the protests that began last week and spread across at least 100 cities and towns.

Authorities shut down internet access to the outside world on Saturday and the outage remains in place across the nation of 80 million people.

Iranian officials say 12 protesters and members of Iran’s security forces have died and more than 600 people have been arrested.

Amnesty International said on Monday it believed at least 106 people had been killed, citing “credible reports”.

“The organisation believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Iranian journalists have claimed in reports that shootings by the security forces number well over 100, and that families have been refused the chance to see their relatives’ bodies.

The fuel price rises represent yet another burden on Iranians, who have experienced a severe currency collapse after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and re-imposed crippling US sanctions.

Reports out of Iran confirm widespread and diffuse protests but the shutdown of the internet combined with tight state controls on the media make the scale of the protests difficult to assess.

The whole of the Islamic republic has been largely offline since the internet restrictions were imposed.

“Many professions and banks … have faced problems, and we have been trying to solve this,” the government spokesman Ali Rabiei told the semi-official news agency ISNA on Tuesday. “The internet will come back gradually in some provinces where there are assurances the internet will not be abused.”

The judiciary issued sharp warnings about those known to be sending videos of protests abroad. The judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaeili said on Tuesday that people who had been filming the protests and sending them to “alien and enemy networks” were being identified.

Esmaeili said in a news conference that the judiciary would adopt a “punitive” policy against those who “loot or destroy” public property.

He said everybody was “responsible for their actions” and called on people to separate their actions from those of “rioters”, and to instead refer them to law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.

Government news outlets published detailed reports, with pictures and videos, of “spontaneous” counter-riot demonstrations that were being organised to show opposition to the agitators.

Iran has also tried to rally domestic support by claiming foreign interference was behind the protests. (Source: The Guardian)