TEHRAN: At least 106 people are believed to have died in Iranian protests triggered by a government move to raise fuel prices, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Thousands took to the streets in many Iranian cities after authorities increased gasoline prices by as much as 300% on Thursday.
The unrest prompted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has a final say on all state matters, to publicly back the price hikes.
Security forces have launched a crackdown with hundreds of people arrested and the Internet closed down across most of the country.
Amnesty International cited verified video footage, eyewitness testimony and information gathered from human rights activists outside Iran to support its death toll estimate.
The organization said the “real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed,” according to the Tuesday report.
The protests broke out as the economy reels under US sanctions meant to curtail Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
The International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s recession to deepen this year, with gross domestic product contracting 9.5%.
Inflation may accelerate to an average of 36%, the IMF has said, compared with under 10% in 2016. That was the year after Iran signed an accord with world powers to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The US pulled out of the agreement in May 2018.
Iranian allies and proxies in Iraq and Lebanon are already under pressure in the face of mass protests against worsening living standards, inequality, and corruption.
With some of these groups also under US sanctions, any sign of weakness in Tehran could trigger more pressure from US President Donald Trump.