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Rouhani Defends Gasoline Price Rise, As People Protest In Iran

Iranians fill their cars and motorcycles at a gas station in Tehran, November 15, 2019

As angry reactions and calls for protests in Iran have begun against the government’s fuel price increase, President Hassan Rouhani has defended the decision by the heads of Judiciary, executive and legislative branches as being "in the interest of those who are under pressure" economically.

Speaking to members of his cabinet on Friday November 15, he said "There were plans for a five-fold increase in the price of gasoline, but we rejected them." However, he did not say whose idea it was. The heads of the three powers of the government made the decision circumventing the country's parliament, Majles which should have approved the price increase.

Rouhani said that he feared a five-fold rise in the price of fuel would lead to a rise in the inflation rate.

In the meantime, Friday afternoon protests took place in the oil-rich Khuzestan province against the price rise and calls for strikes and protests were disseminated on social media.

A user-generated video can be seen in this tweet. Radio Farda cannot independently verify time and location.

The Iranian government announced early Friday that the price of gasoline has been increased to 30,000 rials per liter beyond a 60 liter monthly quota at the price of 15,000 rials per litre. The price super gasoline has been set at 35,000 rials per litre.

Although the new price is still much cheaper than the rest of the region, the price increase is a highly controversial measure as it may start a domino effect of price rise across markets in Iran.

Traditionally, price rises in all goods follow an increase in the price of bread or gasoline.

Although no sign of an actual protest has been reported in Iran yet, starting from early morning on Friday, Iranian social media users have been condemning President Rouhani and his administration for the price rise, announced on the midnight news bulletin on the Iranian state TV.

Posts on social media which may have originated from inside or outside Iran have called for a nationwide general strike on Saturday.

Economist Farshad Momeni has asked how the government calculates prices based on European standards while the people's incomes reflect third world criteria?

Journalist Mohammad Mosaed tweeted that the unusual rise in the price of gasoline will lead to inflation, recession, corruption and losses for everyone. He characterized the government's behavior as a nocturnal onslaught.

Political activist Bahare Hedayat noted that the protest against fuel price rise is more because of the illegitimacy of the tripartite body that made the decision than the underlying economic considerations. She stressed that when the people are not involved in decision making, any decision will be illegitimate.

Hesam Amiri asked why those who do not have a car or use public transportation should be paying more? He said: "From now on taxi fares will double, goods will be more expensive and when you protest, instead of three people, six will attack you. That is where the additional money you are paying for gasoline is going to be spent."

Iran-based Journalist Azadeh Mohammad Hossein warned that economic pressures have made the people too angry, and that is very dangerous. She suggested that a glance at "mentions" underneath social media posts reveals the extent of this anger.

There are many video clips about this demonstration on Twitter and Facebook, but they cannot be verified independently.