Following a 50 percent increase in gas prices, peaceful protests broke out across Iran on Nov. 15 to voice grievances with the country’s dramatically increasing cost of living. Iranian security forces were ordered by government officials to stamp out the protests and have been quelling the unrest through brutal force, by shooting live ammunition indiscriminately at their own citizens. Protestors believe that the government is not doing enough to quell the massive crippling of Iran’s economy caused by the recent round of US sanctions.
Iranian citizens feel entitled to cheap gas, but the sanctions on Iran have driven the country into economic turmoil. Deutsche Welle reports that there is almost no oil export from the country this year, which has historically made up 90 percent of Iran’s revenue. Because of this, inflation has increased dramatically over the course of the year. With exponentially rising prices, and stagnant wages, the workers of Iran finally rose to action after the recent unworldly hike in gas prices.
The Iranian government was quick to respond by giving the “green light” to security forces to violently disperse protestors with live ammunition, tear gas, and water cannons. As of Nov. 19, more than 106 protestors in 21 cities have been murdered by security forces, according to human rights organization Amnesty International.
However, the real figure is incredibly difficult to report. Less than one day had passed before Iranian government completely shut down access to the internet and telecommunications nationwide. This suppression of communication makes it significantly challenging for people organize protests, and for people to know whether or not their loved ones in other places in the country are still alive. NGO NetBlocks, which tracks the suppression of internet access worldwide, stated that this is “the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth.” NetBlocks reports that internet traffic in Iran is down to a mere 4 percent of its average levels.
This assault on the freedom of information and expression suggests that something is deeply wrong here, and that the Iranian government wants no one to know about it.
Amnesty International reports that several eyewitnesses have seen security forces taking away dead bodies and injured people from roads and hospitals. Iranian security forces have been refusing to return the bodies of their victims to families, and sometimes even forcing families to bury their loved ones without ample time for an independent autopsy to determine the causes and circumstances surrounding their deaths. This action is in direct violation of international law and standards regarding the investigation of unlawful killings.
The UN must stage an intervention to protect the human rights of Iran’s people. It is clear that the government has no intention of cooperating with and listening to its citizens. Iranian government has refused to counter free thinking and anger towards inaction with meaningful reform, so the only tool left at its disposal is violence: violence in communication, violence in thought, and violence in bloodshed.