TEHRAN: A report reflecting a preliminary assessment of damage done to the public property during recent riots, which marred peaceful protests following the Iranian government’s decision to ration gasoline, shows that “trained saboteurs” exploited those protests to set public buildings on fire and attack police officers in various Iranian cities.
According to the report, which has been compiled by an unnamed intelligence agency and published on Sunday by Fars news agency, the total number of people taking part in protests has been estimated at 87,400, including About 82,200 men and 5,200 women most of whom did not cooperate with rioters, who damaged public places and attacked the police force.
The report, however, noted that post-gasoline rationing protests showed a new spike in violence compared to previous instances, which took place last year, with evidence showing that attacks on public buildings were totally organized.
“A large part of protesters were merely present at the location of rallies and did not cooperate with rioters, and many of them have received warning messages on their cellphones from security organizations to avoid further participation in protests,” the report said.
It noted that the conduct of the violent minority during the protests proved that they were “completely trained,” and unlike ordinary people who had been taken by surprise over the hike of fuel price, they were totally prepared to take advantage of this opportunity.
“Out of 1,080 cities and counties across the country, small and large protest rallies were held in 100 locations nationwide with an estimated attendance rate of 50 to maximum 1,500 people,” the report said, noting that the extent of violence and destruction of public property was the highest in Khuzestan, Tehran, Fars and Kerman provinces.
The report added that there is still no final report on the number of casualties in violent protests, but most of fatalities were related to attacks mounted on police stations and other military sites by rioters during which a yet unspecified number of the police force and ordinary people have lost their lives.
“So far, about 1,000 people have been arrested during recent protests across the country and more than 100 bank branches and 57 big stores have been set on fire or sacked in one province alone,” the report said.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has thrown his weight behind a recent government decision to ration gasoline and increase its price.
On Friday, Iran began rationing gasoline and substantially increased the price of fuel in a move to assist the needy.
The National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) said in a statement late Thursday that the price of a liter of regular gasoline had gone up to 15,000 rials (12.7 US cents) from 10,000 rials and the monthly ration for each private automobile was set at 60 liters per month. Additional purchases would cost 30,000 rials per liter.
The decision sparked rallies in a number of Iranian cities some of which were marred by violence as opportunist elements tried to exploit situation and ride the wave of peaceful protests at hiking fuel prices. Consequently, the demonstrations turned violent in some cities, and clashes were reported between security forces and certain elements damaging public properties.
Experts say rationing fuel in Iran will prevent tens of millions of liters of gasoline from being wasted each day in a country that still grapples with the economic impacts of a series of American sanctions.
“We have to defend the policy of gasoline price hike as it helps eradicate poverty in the short run,” said Ali Sarzaeim, a professor of economy at Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabaei University.
The economist added that fuel price hike would enable the Iranian government to increase the amount of cash it hands out to the needy across the country.