Protests strike Iran cities over gasoline prices rising - GulfToday

Protests strike Iran cities over rising gasoline prices


A woman fills her car at a gas station in Tehran, Iran, on Friday. Vahid Salemi/AP

Overnight protests roiling several Iranian cities continued into Saturday, sparked by the government cutting back on gasoline subsidies and increasing costs by 50%, with demonstrations ranging from people abandoning their cars in traffic to trying to attack an oil depot in one city.

The demonstrations, though not as widespread as the economic protests that shook the country nearly two years ago, put new pressure on the government of Iran’s relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

As parliamentary elections loom in February, Rouhani has been trying to pitch Iran on the idea of staying in his landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The accord is unraveling after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from it over a year ago, raising tensions across the wider Mideast.

Iranians fill their vehicles at a petrol station in Tehran on Friday. AFP

In Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city and the home of a famous Shiite shrine, dozens of demonstrators abandoned their cars in traffic to protest, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. The protest ended when police warned demonstrators to disperse, IRNA said.

Protests require prior approval from Iran’s Interior Ministry, though authorities routinely allow small-scale demonstrations over economic issues, especially as the country has struggled with currency devaluation.

Violence broke out in Sirjan, some 800 kilometres (500 miles) southeast of Tehran. IRNA said "protesters tried to set fire to the oil depot, but they were stopped by police.” It did not elaborate, but online videos circulating Iran purported to show fire at the depot as sirens wailed in the background. Another showed a large crowd shouting: "Rouhani, shame on you! Leave the country alone!”

In Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, online videos purported to show police firing tear gas on crowds.

Associated Press