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Widespread Protests Turn Violent, Iran Parliament To Discuss Situation Sunday

Riot police triy to disperse people as they protest on a highway against increased gas price in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019.

Iranian government's reaction to protests against an unusual gas price hike in Iran has been turning increasingly violent Saturday afternoon.

Shots have been heard in Shiraz, Bushehr and Tehran where security forces reportedly opened fire at Azari Intersection in south-western Tehran at the beginning of the road to Saveh.

Unofficial reports on social media and citizen journalists say at least ten protesters have been killed, but Radio Farda cannot independently confirm this number.

One demonstrator was confirmed dead in Sirjan on Friday. There are also unconfirmed reports about the shooting to death of demonstrators in Shiraz, Behbahan and Karaj near Tehran.

Meanwhile videos coming from the north-eastern city of Tabriz show violent clashes between the people and riot police. People were seen hurling stones at the policemen who were beating the demonstrators.

Violence also broke out in some cities such as Behbahan where angry demonstrators set fire to a major bank.

Public Prosecutor Jafar Montazari has vowed to deal with protestors harshly while also attributing the protests like similar situations to "elements beyond Iran's borders."

Efforts to pacify the situation include remarks by two authoritative grand ayatollahs, Safi Golpayegani and Alavi Gorgani. Both clerics called on the Parliament (Majles) to reverse the price rise although the Majles was not involved in the decision about the three-fold price rise.

Radio Farda produced this Twitter video from verified footage from Iran

The decision was made by a committee of the heads of the three branches of the government including President Hassan Rouhani, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi. The committee nicknamed as "The economic War Room" was set up by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2018.

The Parliament was going to have an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation, but it was later postponed to Sunday. The agenda of Sunday's meeting is to call for double or triple urgency session to revoke the gasoline price rise.

In case a triple-urgency is approved, the parliament has to put the matter to vote on the same day. However, ratifications made by the Majles needs further approval by the hardliner Guardian Council.

However, it is not yet clear if the Majles has the leverage to revoke a decision made by regime pillars including its own chief legislator.

A reformist MP, Parvaneh Salahshouri tweeted on Saturday that she has received many complaints from her constituency about the gasoline price hike, but she cannot do anything as "the Majles is no longer in control" in the country.

Reminding that the decision was made by the heads of the three branches of the government, Salahshouri wrote sarcastically, "Let us shut down the Majles in compliance with economic jihad."

Some social media users have observed that demonstrations in Isfahan follow the model of recent Lebanese protests as people have been spending some quality time among the crowds enjoying themselves with refreshments while also chanting slogans.

Meanwhile in some cities including Mashhad and Sari, protests are mainly directed at the Rouhani administration. Elsewhere, including Tehran groups of demonstrators have called for his resignation.

On social media, an outspoken former MP has harshly criticized Rouhani for increasing the gas price without prior notice while telling European powers in advance that he can reverse his actions under JCPOA every time he announces any reduction in Iran's commitments.

With the Majles alluding to lawmakers’ dissatisfaction with the price rise, and the Judiciary chief's attempt to distance himself from the decision, demonstrators find more reasons to attack Rouhani. Although Raeesi has denied he was opposed to the decision, individuals close to him insisted later that he did.

As the protests gain further momentum, the regime may find it hard to stomach the idea of an apology or postponing the implementation of the price rise. Blaming Rouhani as its weakest link might be a way out.

Protests started on Friday after the government increased the price of gasoline from 10,000 rials to 30,000 rial per liter while allocating 60 liters ration to every car per month at 15,000, rial per litre.