Protests flared across Iran for a second day on Saturday, with angry crowds calling for the ouster of the regime in unrest incited by a steep increase in officially set gasoline prices but that quickly broadened to include other grievances.
At least six people were dead after security forces clashed with protesters, according to Persian language news outlets. Iran was also experiencing a “near-total national internet shutdown,” according to NetBlocks, which monitors cybersecurity.
“We don’t want an Islamic Republic, we don’t want it, we don’t want it,” demonstrators chanted in the middle-class Tehranpars neighborhood of Tehran.
Calling the protests “foreign instigated,” Tehran’s prosecutor warned Saturday that security forces would crack down harshly.
The protests erupted in dozens of cities after the government decided at midnight Friday to cut gasoline subsidies to fund handouts for Iran’s poor. That added to strains from American economic sanctions and the Iranian government’s mismanagement of the economy.
The protests then broadened to venting anger over other problems such as social repression and corruption.
Iran disrupted internet and cellphone service and halted phone-data reception, apparently trying to deter people from sharing information and organizing protests, according to NetBlocks.
“By shutting down the internet, the Iranian government isolates protesters from each other and from the rest of the world,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, the director of NetFreedom Pioneers, a technology nonprofit, who is an expert on cybersecurity in Iran. “Oppression can then exist in a vacuum without on-the-ground solidarity or accountability.”
Under the price changes, the price for a liter of rationed gasoline rose to 15,000 rials, or about 13 cents, from 10,000 rials per liter on Thursday, and a monthly ration for each private car was set at 60 liters. Any purchases over that limit would be triple the previous price.
Gasoline in Iran still remains among the world’s cheapest.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Farnaz Fassihi