A sudden move to raise fuel prices in Iran has sparked nationwide protests over the past week and, in turn, drawn a fierce crackdown by security forces, marking some of the worst violence in the country in years. Scores have been reported killed.
The protests have flared in many of the same areas that experienced unrest two years ago, when demonstrators protested a similar proposal to slash state subsidies. Then, as now, lower-income Iranians rose up against a system that they said had failed them economically.
But a wider spectrum of society may have joined the revolt this time around, analysts say, pointing to demonstrations in major cities and at universities, including the University of Tehran. Protesters have also clashed with police in urban centers such as Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz.
Over the past two years, Iran’s economy has worsened because of U.S. sanctions and declining oil sales — revenue the government uses to pay salaries and fund imports. Iran’s economy is expected to contract by 8.7 percent this year, according to the World Bank.
The soaring inflation and stagnating wages have deepened Iranians’ malaise and frustration. But the dismal state of affairs also appears to have lit a fire.
In recent days, demonstrators angered by the fuel price hike have confronted security forces in at least 100 locations, surpassing the previous protests in ferocity and geographic scale. They burned banks and police stations, ransacked government buildings, and blocked roads. Riot police responded with tear gas, water cannons and live fire, rights groups said. More than 100 demonstrators may have been killed, according to Amnesty International. [Continue reading…]