Iranian security forces clash with anti-government protesters in several provinces

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DUBAI, May 19 (Reuters) – Iranian security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas on Thursday to disperse anti-government protesters in several provinces, according to social media posts, as protests sparked by rising prices foodstuffs continued to spread.

Iranians took to the streets last week after a cut in food subsidies pushed prices up to 300% for some flour-based staples. The protests quickly turned political, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, echoing 2019 unrest that began over rising fuel prices.

Social media footage unverified by Reuters showed at least six people killed and dozens injured in the past few days. There has been no official comment on the death toll.

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Footage posted to social media on Thursday showed intense clashes in towns like Farsan in central Iran, where riot police fired live ammunition at protesters. In Shahr-e Kord and Hafshejan, security forces used tear gas and batons to disperse protesters.

“Have no fear, have no fear, we’re in this together,” protesters in the southern town of Dezful could be seen chanting in a video.

Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the social media images cited.

Senior police official Qasem Rezai warned on Thursday that “illegal gatherings are intolerable and will be fought against”, according to Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency.

FEARS OF RESUMPTION OF 2019 PROTESTS

Last week the government acknowledged the protests but described them as small gatherings. Iranian state media last week reported the arrest of “dozens of rioters and provocateurs”.

Iranian leaders fear a resumption of the 2019 protests, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic’s history, although authorities have dismissed the reported death toll, including more than 300 according to Amnesty International, and a Reuters count of 1,500. you are beautiful.

The government has also cut subsidies for basic goods, including cooking oil and dairy products, in a move it called a “fair redistribution” of subsidies to low-income people.

However, protesters have broadened their demands, calling for more political freedom, an end to the Islamic Republic and the downfall of its leaders, according to witnesses and social media posts.

Images on social media on Thursday showed protesters burning pictures of Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and chanting “We don’t want the rule of clerics”, while calling for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the overthrown. Shah of Iran.

In a video message on his Twitter account, Reza Pahlavi called for unity among Iranians “for a free Iran” and expressed his condolences to the families of “those who were killed during the unrest”.

Some social media users in Iran said internet services had been interrupted since last week, in what appears to be an apparent effort by authorities to end the use of social media to hold rallies and broadcast videos. Iranian officials said there had been no disruptions in internet access.

Nearly half of Iran’s population of 85 million lives below the poverty line, according to official figures. Combined with rising inflation, rising unemployment, a collapsing national currency and state corruption, US sanctions have further crippled the economy.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Iran’s 2015 six-power nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington have stalled since March.

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Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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