Iran police vow to deal 'decisively' with any further protests

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the southwestern city of Behbahan on Thursday.

    Demonstrators took to the streets of Behbahan to protest over economic hardship [Reuters]
    Demonstrators took to the streets of Behbahan to protest over economic hardship [Reuters]

    Iranian police have said they will deal "decisively" with further protests over economic hardship, a day after security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the southwestern city of Behbahan.

    Iran's rulers have tried to prevent a revival of last November's anti-government protests in which hundreds of people were killed.

    Tehran says the death toll stood at 225 people, including members of the security forces. Rights group Amnesty International said at least 304 people were killed and thousands more were wounded when authorities cracked down on the protesters.

    On Tuesday, the judiciary said the death sentences of three men involved in that unrest had been upheld, sparking a surge in online protests.

    In a statement on Friday, police urged people to "vigilantly refrain from any gathering that could provide a pretext for the counter-revolutionary movement", accusing "enemies" of whipping up discontent.

    "The police force has an inherent and legal duty to deal decisively with these desperate moves," the statement added.

    Protesters 'dispersed'

    The police chief for the city of Behbahan in southwest Iran, Colonel Mohammad Azizi, was quoted by Iranian website jamaran.news as confirming a protest took place beginning at 9pm local time (15:30 GMT) on Thursday.

    He said police "firmly dispersed" the demonstrators, who rallied over the economy, and there were no injuries.

    Iranian media reported that police dispersed protesters in southwest Iran angry over Iran's anaemic economy amid a US sanctions campaign.

    Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org also reported disruption affecting online access in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province late on Thursday.

    The outage coincided with videos being published online of protesters gathering in the city of Behbahan, some 570km (355 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran.

    One video verified by The Associated Press news agency shows a crowd of dozens of people in a square in Behbahan, shouting: "An Iranian will die, but will never accept humiliation."

    Videos posted on social media from inside Iran on Thursday showed protesters chanting, "Fear not, fear not, we are in this together!". Some chanted slogans against top officials.

    Videos posted on Twitter showed a heavy presence of security forces in several cities.

    "People are angry. The economy is so bad that we cannot survive," an Iranian man told Reuters news agency by phone from Tehran on Thursday, asking not to be named due to security concerns.

    Last year's unrest began with protests over economic hardship but turned political, with demonstrators demanding top officials step down.

    The economy, already hard hit by US sanctions that have choked off its oil exports, has deteriorated further in recent months as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

    There were calls on social media for demonstrations across the country on Friday to protest against the three death sentences.

    SOURCE: News agencies