Gas price hikes spark sporadic protests in Iran

Gasoline price hikes and rationing in Iran have sparked protest rallies and reactions among the people and religious scholars, PressTV reported.

Protests have been held in several Iranian cities with people calling on the government to reverse its decision. The demonstrations, however, have turned violent in some cities, and clashes have been reported between security forces and certain elements damaging public properties.

Speaking to the state TV on Saturday, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli acknowledged the people’s right to protest within the framework of law, but warned against any vandalism and attempts to undermine the country’s security and calm.

The minister said the vandals have created many problems for the people in a number of cities through such illegal moves as damaging public places, people’s cars, and public properties, and by blocking roads and streets which kept people stranded for several hours.

Rahmani Fazli said the security forces have so far shown restraint and tolerated the protests, but they will have to fulfill their duties if the vandalism continues.

“Under any circumstances, the country’s security and the people’s calm are the top priority for the Law Enforcement and our security and military forces,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said the protests have been orchestrated from outside the country, and warned that any disorderly conduct would face legal action.

The new gasoline prices were announced 00:00 local time on Friday, without any prior notice from the government.

Senior clerics Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani and Ayatollah Mohammad Alavi Gorgani have urged Iranian lawmakers to repeal the act. Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi also criticized the move, saying that it’s been made at a wrong time and has shocked the public opinion.

A group of parliamentarians are preparing a motion to restore gasoline prices to the previous levels. The motion could be discussed in parliament Sunday.

Member of the Parliament’s Plan and Budget Commission Hamidreza Hajibabayi said on Saturday that the price hikes were illegal and would harm the interests of the people and the country.

In a letter addressed to the Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, the Iranian lawmaker strongly protested the sidelining of the parliament in adopting such a sensitive decision.

On the illegality of the move, Hajibabayi claimed the government would pocket an income of more than $9 billion from increasing the price of gasoline, insisting that the law governing the budget of the current Iranian calendar year, which ends in March, had only allowed a third of that income.

The Iranian government has said it would spend all of more than $2.5 billion earned from the gasoline price hike on cash handouts and other form of subsidies targeting more than 70 percent of the Iranian population.

People, however, are worried that the move could cause a domino effect in jacking up prices of other goods and services.