At least 106 people have been killed in 21 cities across Iran during protests that broke out over fuel prices rises last week, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
"The organization believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed," Amnesty said in a statement, citing "credible reports."
"At least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to credible reports received by Amnesty International," as stated by Amnesty International in a report released on Tuesday. "The organization believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed," it added. Noting that there are reports of deaths of "a handful of protesters" and at least four members of the security forces, Amnesty said video footage and images indicate the use of live ammunition.
"The authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately and show respect for human life," the group quoted Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Amnesty International, as saying.
Iran's mission to the U.N. called Amnesty's report "baseless allegations and fabricated figures." Iran has restricted access to the internet, making it nearly impossible for protesters to post social media videos of demonstrations. About 1,000 protesters have been arrested, officials said.
State television showed rallies in the northern city of Rasht, in Gorgan in the northeast and in Shahryar, south of the capital Tehran, where a member of the security forces was killed in the unrest.
Iran's government, which has not made nationwide numbers available for the toll of the unrest that began Sunday, did not immediately respond to the report.
A hard-line newspaper in Iran is suggesting that those who led violent protests will be executed by hanging as the unrest continues.
The article published Tuesday in the Keyhan newspaper cited reports, saying "that the judiciary considers execution by hanging for the riot leaders a definite punishment." It did not elaborate further.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed victory over the unrest he blamed on Iran's foreign enemies, according to state media. "The Iranian people have again succeeded at an historic test and shown that they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country's management," Rouhani said in remarks carried by the state broadcaster IRIB on its website.
Tehran has blamed "thugs" linked to exiles and foreign enemies such as the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia for the protests. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday the protests had been a security matter, not a popular movement, and had been dealt with successfully.
The petrol price hike was agreed upon by the High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, the parliament speaker and the judiciary chief. President Rouhani has defended the move, saying the proceeds would go to 60 million needy Iranians.
Since Sunday Iran has shut down the internet and deployed police and anti-riot forces to quell the unrest. Demonstrations are believed to still be going on across the country.
It remains difficult to know the scale of the demonstrations. Iran shut down the internet on Saturday, stopping protesters from sharing information and their videos online.
U.S. warships in strait
Frustration has grown over a weakening currency and rising prices for bread, rice and other staples since the U.S. withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions. The arch-foes came to the brink of a military confrontation in June when Iran downed a U.S. drone and President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before canceling them at the last minute.
On Tuesday, the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway separating Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Iran, which controls much of the oil shipping lanes through the strategic waterway, regularly threatens to shut it down if its enemies commit hostile acts.