At least 106 protesters have been killed during recent protests in Iran sparked by a hike in fuel prices, the Amnesty International said Wednesday, expressing fears that the real death toll may be much higher.
“Verified video footage, eyewitness testimony from people on the ground and information gathered from human rights activists outside Iran reveal a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by Iranian security forces,” the human rights group said.
It accused the Iranian security forces of using “excessive and lethal force” to crush largely peaceful protests in more than 100 cities across Iran. The protests were sparked by a hike in fuel prices on November 15.
The Amnesty International said that video footage of incidents shows security forces using firearms, water cannons and tear gas to disperse protests and beating demonstrators with batons. Images of bullet casings left on the ground afterwards, as well as the resulting high death toll, indicate that they used live ammunition, it added.
The rights group criticised the Iranian state media for reporting only a handful of protester deaths, as well as the deaths of at least four members of the security forces.
“The authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately and show respect for human life,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The frequency and persistence of lethal force used against peaceful protesters in these and previous mass protests, as well as the systematic impunity for security forces who kill protesters, raise serious fears that the intentional lethal use of firearms to crush protests has become a matter of state policy.”
The rights group said further said that top government officials including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have issued statements describing protesters as “villains” and giving security forces a green light to crush demonstrations.
The Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities to respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. It demanded Iranian officials lift the near-total block on internet access designed to restrict the flow of information about the crackdown to the outside world.