Protests erupted in Iran on November 15, 2019, following an abrupt hike in gas prices by the Iranian government. Though the price hike sparked the initial outpouring of protestors, the demonstrations illustrated deeper fissures and grievances of the Iranian populace, who have been long suffering under crippling sanctions and government corruption. Worse yet, protests quickly turned deadly as Iranian security forces met demonstrators with lethal force.
Within hours of the protests breaking out, Iranian authorities enforced a near total blackout of internet services, effectively cutting off Iranians from the outside world. As Human Rights Watch appropriately asserted, the internet shutdown, censorship of journalists and lack of transparency indicates an intentional coverup of the violent crackdown and the events that transpired.
The suppression of protests must be condemned for infringing upon the most basic rights of Iranians to assemble and express their dissent, but even more reprehensible is the loss of life we have seen. According to Amnesty International, reliable sources conclude that the death toll has reached at least 208, though the actual numbers are likely to be much higher. Amnesty International sources also note the difficulty of gathering information from families of victims for fear of government reprisals.
The attempt to coverup the events and subsequent internet shutdown by authorities have made it difficult for those even living there to know the extent of the crackdown or demonstrations. The psychological toll of these events on the larger Iranian public will be difficult to measure. The Iranian government must address the root causes of these protests and tackle the issues that are hurting ordinary Iranians, rather than adding to their plight with brutality and further repression.