Protests: Government Response

December 4, 2019
Updated

Protests spread across Iran in response to increased fuel prices and rationing. The government’s move, announced overnight on November 15, triggered an angry reaction. "Have shame [President] Rouhani, Leave the country alone!" and "Have shame dictator, Leave the country alone!” protestors reportedly chanted in Mashhad, the country’s second largest city and conservative stronghold. In the first four days, at least 12 people were reportedly killed and hundreds more injured in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. In response, the government reportedly imposed a nearly complete nationwide internet shutdown on November 17.

Khamenei
Supreme Leader Khamenei

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed the government’s decision to raise fuel prices and blamed “hooligans” for the unrest. “In such incidents, hooligans, spiteful and evil people often enter the field and sometimes some youths, driven by emotion, accompany them and commit seditious acts. Such deeds do not fix anything other than adding insecurity to the problems,” Khamenei said.

During a cabinet meeting, President Rouhani explained that the additional revenue would help increase subsidies for Iran’s poorest citizens. “No one should imagine that the government has done this because it is economically struggling; not at all, not a rial of this will go to the treasury,” he said on November 15.

After the demonstrations spread, Rouhani said that the Iranian people were entitled to protest. But he warned that unrest would not be tolerated. “I tell our dear people that protesting is different from rioting. Protest is a right for all the people and they can protest,” he said on November 17. “The government will not allow anyone at all to [create] chaos and insecurity, but all have the right to protest, speak and criticize.”

On November 18, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned that they would take “decisive action” against protestors if the unrest continued. “If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the IRGC said in a statement. The following are reactions from Iranian officials on the protests.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

“Setting a bank on fire is not an act done by the people. This is what thugs do.”

“The faster these cases are considered, the better and those who are suspected of being close to any group should be dealt with in a way that is closer to Islamic mercy.”

—Dec. 4, 2019, in a statement, according to IRNA news agency

 

"I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the great Iranian nation for their magnificent movement during recent days. The people proved again that they are powerful and great, and defeated the big conspiracy of the enemy with their presence on the scene.” 

“The grave, extensive and very dangerous conspiracy that Global Arrogance and Zionism spent so much on and worked for so that they could cause this destruction, villainy, and murder in Iran at a crucial time was quashed by the presence of the people.” 

“The system of domination is against freedom. The biggest freedom is a nation’s freedom and independence, which they are against. They enter via colonialism, then via Neocolonialism, today using new methods, soft war, and if they can and find it necessary using military force without hesitation.” 

—Nov. 27, 2019, in an address to members of the Basij paramilitary 

 

 

"In such incidents, hooligans, spiteful and evil people often enter the field and sometimes some youths, driven by emotion, accompany them and commit seditious acts. Such deeds do not fix anything other than adding insecurity to the problems."

—Nov. 18, 2019, in a statement, according to Press TV

"If the heads of the three branches of the government make a decision [about raising gas prices], I will support. The decision must be implemented."

—Nov. 17, 2019, in a statement according to Press TV

“Some people are no doubt worried by this decision ... but sabotage and arson is done by hooligans not our people. The counter-revolution and Iran’s enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so.”

“Unfortunately some problems were caused, a number of people lost their lives and some centers were destroyed.”

—Nov. 17, 2019, in a speech on state television

 

President Hassan Rouhani

“Religious and Islamic clemency should be shown and those innocent people who protested against petrol price hikes and were not armed ... should be released.”

“The aim of our enemies was to endanger the existence of the Islamic Republic by igniting riots in Iran...But America and the Zionist regime (Israel) lack political wisdom about Iran and Iranians.”

—Dec. 4, 2019, in a televised speech

“The Iranian people have again succeeded in an historic test and shown they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country’s management.”

—Nov. 20, 2019, in a cabinet meeting, according to IRIB news agency

“After implementing this plan, we saw that some people took to the streets to protest. I believe that it is natural when the administration implements a plan and not everyone agrees to it. Some people may be opposed [to that plan] and they have the right to give voice to their opposition.”

“What the government has done was in accordance with the law…We act on the basis of the law and what we finalized was agreed upon by the heads of the three branches of the government.”

“I tell our dear people that protesting is different from rioting. Protest is a right for all the people and they can protest…but we must not allow insecurity in the society.”

“The government will not allow anyone at all to [create] chaos and insecurity, but all have the right to protest, speak and criticize.”

—Nov. 17, 2019, in a cabinet meeting, according to Press TV

"Increasing petrol prices is to the people's benefit and also to help the society's strata under (economic) pressure. No one should imagine that the government has done this because it is economically struggling; not at all, not a rial of this will go to the treasury."

—Nov. 15, 2019, in a cabinet meeting, according to IRNA news agency

 

Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri

“Some countries in the region should know that they will not have an easy life in the region if clues are found that show they intervened to create unrest in Iran.”

—Nov. 23, 2019, in a statement, according to Fars news agency

 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

“Instead of interfering in Iran's internal affairs, defending thugs, and shedding crocodile tears in defense of those who destroy public and private property in Iran the European countries should better honor their nuclear commitments to Iran and deal with their own problems.”

—Nov. 22, 2019, in a daily briefing to the press
 

“A regime that hinders the delivery of food and medicine to ordinary [Iranian] people — including the elderly and the patients — through economic terrorism [tactics] can never claim support for the Iranian people in such a disgraceful way.”

—Nov. 18, 2019, in a statement, according to Press TV

 

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani

“The US’s goal vis-à-vis Iran is nothing other than to disturb its security and set fire to the Iranian nation’s interests.”

“He (Pompeo) openly supports immolation of the Iranian people’s properties through foolish shamelessness and opportunism, while calling it defending the Iranian people.”

—Nov. 15, 2019, in an address to Parliament

 

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

“If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security.”

—Nov. 18, 2019, in a statement carried by state media, according to Reuters

 

Intelligence Ministry

“The main elements behind the disturbances of the past two days have been identified and appropriate action is being taken.”

—Nov. 17, 2019, in a statement to Tasnim news agency

 

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi

“Instead of interfering in Iran's internal affairs, defending thugs and shedding crocodile tears in defense of those who destroy public and private property in Iran the European countries should better honor their nuclear commitments to Iran and deal with their own problems."

"What should be addressed first and foremost regarding Iran is that Europe should be held accountable for not honoring its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and for backing the US sanctions and economic terrorism against the Iranian nation…”

—Nov. 21, 2019, in a daily brief to the media

“The dignified people of Iran are well aware that such hypocritical remarks contain no honest sympathy and the [violent] actions of a group of anarchists and saboteurs who are supported by the likes of him are by no means in line with the conduct and behavior of the majority of the understanding and insightful Iranian people.”

“It is interesting that [Pompeo] is sympathizing with the people who are under pressure of the United States’ economic terrorism. He had already explicitly said that the people of Iran must be kept hungry until they give in to ‘our demands’.”

—Nov. 17, 2019, in response to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s support for protests

 

Judiciary Chief Ebrahimi Raisi

“Those who in recent days misused the atmosphere and the people’s demands and concerns, instigated riots in the society, created insecurity, made the hearts of women and children tremble, attacked public property and looted people’s belongings, they and their masters must know that a harsh punishment is awaiting them.”

—Nov. 22, 2019, in a statement, according to IRNA news agency

 

Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei

“Under the current circumstances that the country is facing the most unprecedented sanctions and pressures, the main reason for adjusting prices is to promote social justice or to move toward that [goal]. The lower deciles of the society are under [financial and economic] pressure and the government feels obliged to support them.”

“Those hooligans who cause destruction with weapons and set property on fire are definitely different from those who voice their grievances in a peaceful manner.”

—Nov. 18, 2019, at a press conference in Tehran, according to Press TV

“Rioters used knives and guns...A number of security agents and policemen were killed or taken hostage.”

—Nov. 18, 2019, in a televised news conference, according to Reuters

 

IRGC Commander Ali Fadavi

“We caught all the mercenaries who openly confessed they were doing mercenary work for America and, God willing, the judicial system of the country will give them maximum punishments.”

—Nov. 24, 2019, in a statement on the judiciary’s Mizan news site

 

Sirjan Government Official Mohammad Mahmoudabadi

“One person was killed in Sirjan but ... we are investigating whether he was killed by the security forces who were trying to bring back calm to the city.”

“Security forces were not allowed to shoot at people ... The situation is calm in the city now.”

—Nov. 16, 2019, in a statement to ISNA news agency

 

Updated