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Iran Imposes ‘Largest Internet Shutdown Ever’ as Protests Spread

Flag in front of Iran’s Foreign Ministry building in Tehran (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

The Iranian government has imposed an almost-total internet blackout across the country as deadly protests erupted in various cities.

The protests were triggered by a government announcement on Friday that fuel prices would rise by at least 50 percent and possibly by as much as 300 percent. Following protests in which demonstrators have clashed with security forces and set banks and gas stations on fire, the government imposed “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran” on Sunday, according to the Oracle Internet Intelligence group.

“At least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to credible reports,” said the London-based Amnesty International in a statement. However, “the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed.” Security forces have been removing dead bodies and injured people from roads and hospitals, according to witnesses cited by Amnesty.

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei essentially approved the strategy used by regime security forces to put down the protests.

“The officials responsible for maintaining security should carry out their responsibilities,” Khamenei wrote on Twitter.

Iran’s economy has shrunk considerably due to U.S. sanctions, imposed in response to the country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The financial strain, coupled with continued Iranian funding for Hezbollah, Hamas and its military’s operations in Syria, has led to popular resentment against the regime.

The protests in Iran follow on the heels of massive anti-corruption demonstrations in Lebanon that paralyzed the country and forced its prime minister to resign. Protesters in Iraq have also forced that country’s prime minister to resign.

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