Iranian security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in several districts today, according to social media posts, as protests sparked by rising food prices continued to spread.
The Iranians took to the streets after food subsidies were cut, causing prices to rise by as much as 300% on some basic flour products. The protests quickly took on a political character, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, recalling the 2019 riots that began due to rising fuel prices.
Pictures on social media, the authenticity of which Reuters was unable to verify, showed that at least six people were killed and dozens injured in recent days. There has been no official comment on the death toll.
Today, images posted on social media showed serious clashes in cities such as Farsan in central Iran, where police opened fire on protesters. In Sahr-e Kord and Hafsanjan, security forces used chemicals and globes to disperse protesters.
“Do not be afraid, do not be afraid, we are together in this,” protesters were heard singing in the southern Iranian city of Dezful, according to a video. Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of these posts from an independent source.
Qassim Rezai, a senior police officer, warned today that “illegal gatherings are unacceptable and will be dealt with,” according to Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency.
The government admitted last week that there were protests but described them as small rallies. Iranian state media reported the arrests of “dozens of rioters and provocateurs” last week.
Iranian leaders fear a revival of the 2019 protests, the bloodiest in the history of the Islamic Republic.
The government also cut subsidies for basic products, including cooking oil and dairy products, in a move it described as a decision to “fairly redistribute” subsidies to lower-income people.
However, the protesters have extended their demands, demanding greater political freedom, an end to the Islamic Republic and the fall of its leaders, according to witnesses and social media posts.
Nearly half of Iran’s 85 million people live below the poverty line, according to official figures. Combined with rising inflation and unemployment, a devaluation of the currency and government corruption, US sanctions have hit the economy even harder.