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Iran vows to ‘deal decisively’ with protests

Iranian protests in 2009 (shahram sharif/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran has vowed to “deal decisively” with further protests, a day after police fired tear gas to disperse antiestablishment demonstrators in the southwestern city of Behbahan.

Accusing “enemies” of whipping up discontent, police on July 17 urged people to “vigilantly refrain from any gathering that could provide a pretext for the counterrevolutionary movement.”

“The police force has an inherent and legal duty to deal decisively with these desperate moves,” a statement said.

The official government news agency IRNA quoted Behbahan’s police chief Mohammad Azizi as saying that “a small number of people” had gathered to protest against “the economic situation.”

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He said that the protest was broken with “firmness” after the demonstrators shouted “norm-breaking chants,” a term usually used by Iranian authorities to refer to slogans against the clerical establishment.

Videos posted online showed protesters in Behbahan chanting slogans such as “Don’t be afraid, we’re all together,” and “No Gaza, no Lebanon, my life for Iran.”

Azizi said calm was restored without providing further details. It was clear if any arrest was made.

Netblocks, a website that monitors Internet disruptions, said Internet access was restricted and disrupted in Khuzestan Province, where Behbahan is located, for about three hours around the time of the protest.

The rally in Behbahan came amid a social-media campaign calling on Iranian authorities to overturn death sentences handed to three men who participated in protests last year.

On July 14, Iran’s judiciary announced that the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences against Amir Hossein Moradi, 25, Saeed Tamjidi, 27, and Mohammad Rajabi, 25, for criminal actions during the November 2019 protests sparked by a sudden hike in the price of gasoline.

Also on July 16, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) announced they had arrested a number of “agitators” and also broke up a “terrorist group.”

Those arrested in the northern city of Mashhad were “connected to anti-revolutionary groups” and had made calls for street protests, it said.

In the southwestern city of Shiraz, members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), an exiled group which Tehran considers a terrorist group, were also detained, the IRGC said, adding that the move prevented a “subversive operation.”

Iran’s economy has deteriorated since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers, and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on the country.

The coronavirus epidemic has exacerbated Iran’s economic woes with a temporary shutdown of the economy and reduced exports.