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US Envoy Says Iran Might Have Killed At Least 1,000 Protesters

Brian Hook. File photo November 18, 2019

The State Department's special envoy for Iran said on Thursday that the Islamic Republic security forces might have killed as many as 1,000, if not more demonstrators during the mid-November deadly suppression of anti-regime protests.

The rallies broke out on Friday, November 15 to protest an overnight threefold increase in gasoline prices and soon turned into widespread anti-government protests.

The number of protesters fallen victim to the "brutal crackdown" could "perhaps" stretch beyond 1,000; Brian Hook told a press briefing at the State Department.

This is the highest estimate mentioned so far. Amnesty International has confirmed at least 208 killed, while Iranian opposition groups have put the number around 400. But given Iran's information blackout it is difficult for media or groups to get an accurate count.

Referring to one video of the protests, Hook maintained that it showed more than 100 protesters were shot in one location.

"Thousands of Iranians have been injured, and at least 7,000 more arrested," Hook maintained.

The Islamic Republic's National Security Council (N.S.C.), presided by the Minister of Interior, unexpectedly declared on late Thursday evening, November 14, that it was going to implement a resolution passed by the Coordination Council of three heads of the government to increase the price of gasoline the state sells.

Thousands of people in more than 100 cities across Iran poured into the streets to protest the unprecedented hike. The protests were peaceful until the security forces assisted by armed plainclothes agents rushed in to disperse the demonstrators.

The crackdown is the deadliest of its kind in the Islamic republic's four-decade history, so far.

During his press briefing, Hook cited one atrocious incident, citing footage the State Department had received through a tip line.

He also released a short video message demanding Iran's rulers respect the right to freedom of speech and assembly.

The footage shows the Islamic Republic's special anti-riot units surrounding a group of protesters, spraying them with bullets from machine guns mounted on pickup trucks and killing as many as 100 Iranians.

According to Hook, the bodies were loaded on trucks and taken away, and later, delivered only to the families who committed themselves to refrain from holding memorial services for their loved ones.

"These protests have made clear what Secretary Pompeo and I have been saying for quite some time," Hook said, adding, "The Iranian people want the regime to focus on investing in people, not proxies. They are sick of the regime squandering its wealth on proxy warfare, which leads only to economic pressure and diplomatic isolation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Iranian regime continues to do, even while the Iranian people were filling the streets, calling for an end to sectarian adventurism."

Insisting that the American people overwhelmingly support the Iranian people, Hook asserted, "It is clear there is a bipartisan consensus that the [Islamic Republic] regime's treatment of the Iranian people is abhorrent and unacceptable. We are unified here in the United States, and the international community likewise should be unified and support the Iranian people."

The Special Envoy went further insisting that the Islamic Republic's regime has lost its supporters and merely depends on a few clergies. Its principal back-up is its violent, coercive force.

Earlier on November 26, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that Washington had received nearly 20,000 "messages, videos, pictures, notes" from Iranians depicting what he called "human rights abuses" in Tehran's response to an outbreak of anti-government protests in the country.

More than two weeks after the deadly crackdown, the Islamic Republic authorities have not yet disclosed the exact number of the protesters killed by the security forces.

President Donald Trump has warned that the world is closely watching the developments in Iran. Reporters and journalists should be permitted to go to Iran and see what is going on there, President Trump has asserted.