President Rouhani: Government condemns violent moves, shows respect to peaceful protests

FNA – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his administration holds that people are entitled to hold protests against a recent decision to ration gas, underlining, however, that rioting, violence, spreading insecurity in society and vandalizing public properties are condemned.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Sunday, Rouhani referred to the recent protests in some Iranian cities against the government’s measure, which were at times marred with violence, saying holding protest rallies was a natural right of the people.

“After implementing this plan, we saw that some people took to the streets to protest. I believe that it is natural when the administration implements a plan and not everyone agrees to it. Some people may be opposed [to that plan] and they have the right to give voice to their opposition,” Iran’s president said.

“What the government has done was in accordance with the law…We act on the basis of the law and what we finalized was agreed upon by the heads of the three branches of the government,” he added.

On Friday, Iran began rationing gas and substantially increased the price of fuel, saying the revenues would be used to assist the needy.

Rouhani further emphasized that protesting is different from rioting, saying, “I tell our dear people that protesting is different from rioting. Protest is a right for all the people and they can protest…but we must not allow insecurity in the society.”

It will be unacceptable to misuse the people’s right to protest and attack banks, police stations and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s offices, he noted.

The Iranian chief executive added, “The government will not allow anyone at all to [create] chaos and insecurity, but all have the right to protest, speak and criticize.”

Rouhani thanked the Iranian people for the vigilance and refusal to join the small groups of rioters and plotters who vandalized public property.

He also hailed the great efforts made by the Intelligence Ministry, the police force, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Armed Forces of Iran to identify the main protagonists behind the acts of vandalism and arrest a number of them, saying that the rest of them would also be taken into custody and dealt with based on the law.

Outlining the reasons behind the government’s decision, Rouhani said that rationing gasoline and an increase in its prices would have no benefits for the government, but would rather serve the Iranian people’s interests.

The new measure, he added, would lead to a decrease in gasoline consumption and help the country maintain its self-sufficiency in producing gasoline.

On Sunday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei backed the recent government decision to ration gasoline and increase its price.

Ayatollah Khamenei said while he is not an expert in the field, he still supports the decision which has been made by the three branches of power — namely, executive, legislative and judicial.

Iran has irrefutable evidence that a bunch of anti-Revolution elements have been trying to turn protests against gas price rise into violent riots, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani was quoted by a parliament member as saying on Sunday.

“According to proofs and documents, anti-Revolutionary figures supported the unrest on Saturday,” Ahmad Amirabadi quoted Shamkhani saying.

“Shamkhani referred to some documents proving that in the past two days, some groups organized by anti-Revolutionary figures, carrying weapons, attacked Iranian police forces and made severe damages to banks and other public and private places,” he added.

Also on Sunday, Spokesman of Law Enforcement Police Brigadier General Ahmad Nourian announced that the police forces will not allow insecurity and disruption of the general order during the protest rallies against the gasoline rationing.

“The Law Enforcement Police will act upon its natural and legal duty and will not compromise those who disrupt the order and security and will identify and confront the ringleaders and their field agents,” General Nourian said.

He referred to the Friday and Saturday rallies to protest at the hike in prices and rationing of gasoline in Iran that in some cases turned violent, and said the police will act upon its responsibilities to restore tranquility and security based on people’s demands.

Riots by a small number who have taken advantage of legitimate public protests against the government’s gas price hike plan in Iran are directed at sowing chaos through targeted attacks on public and private properties, forcing law enforcement to step in to stop saboteurs.

Early estimates of an intelligence body showed that a sum of nearly 87,000 protesters and rioters have taken part in protest rallies and gatherings since Friday night, mostly (over 93%) men. A large number of protesters have only been present in the gathering centers and avoided joining the rioters in sabotage attacks on public and private properties.

“The identical methods of the main core of violent rioters discloses that they are fully trained individuals who have been prepared and looking forward for the situation to rise, unlike most people who have been taken off guard by the sudden hike in gas price,” the report said.

The report shows that gatherings have been comprised of 50 to 1,500 people held in 100 regions of the country out of a number of 1,080 major towns and cities. The report says violent raids and damage inflicted on properties has been larger than what happened in February 2018 unrests.

Most cases of damage to properties has happened in Khuzestan, Tehran, Fars and Kerman provinces. The report says most casualties have resulted from armed outlaws’ attacks on oil storage and military centers, adding that a number of police and popular forces have been martyred in these attacks.

Nearly 1,000 people have been arrested across the country while over 100 banks and 57 big stores have been set on fire or plundered in just one province.

The Iranian intelligence ministry announced in a statement on Sunday that it had identified several rioters who misused the recent protest rallies against the gasoline price hikes to destroy public and private properties.

“The main culprits behind the riots in the past two days have been identified and proper measures are being adopted and the honorable nation will be informed about its result later,” the statement said.

It added that the intelligence ministry will decisively confront those who foment insecurity and disrupt tranquility of people.

“Certainly, the enemies who have pinned hope on these riots will have no achievements but shame and embarrassment like the past,” the statement underlined.

Very late on Thursday, the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) issued a statement to recount details for new prices of fuels in the country, which was followed by another statement in early on Friday by Vice-President and Head of the Management and Planning Organization (MPO) Mohammad Baqer Nobakht who said that the revenues will be allocated to offering subsidies to 60 million people.

According to the new pricing echelon, the subsidized fee of 10,000 rials (almost 8.3 cents) per liter is increased to 15,000 rials (almost 12.5 cents) per liter, a 50% rise, which is offered at a limited rate of 60 liters per month, a rationing that did not exist for the last 6 years, for private cars with a rationing card.

However, the price for non-rationed supply of the gas is still subsidized and below the level of price offered in majority of the neighboring countries. The non-rationed price is set at 30,000 rials (almost 25 cents) per liter and there is no limitation for buying non-rationed fuel.

The statement, further added that the price for the compressed natural gas (CNG) and diesel gas will remain unchanged.

After the announcement of the NIOPDC was issued, MPO Head Nobakht said, in a statement that all the revenues collected from the increase in gas prices will be allocated to increase help packages which are offered to 18,000,000 households of 60,000,000 million people.

The move is hoped to demotivate fuel smugglers who come up with very creative methods to smuggle the fuel out of Iran to neighboring countries.