Iran Sending Government Supporters Out to Demonstrate on Its Behalf
The Iranian Foreign Ministry says a rally scheduled to take place in Tehran on Monday will feature “the real people in Iran” following several days of anti-government protests over a gasoline price-hike that Amnesty International says led to at least 115 deaths. “We recognize the right to peaceful assembly…. But the situation is different for rioters… and groups that take their directives [from outside the country] and are armed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Monday on state television. He was referring to recurring charges that the protests had been prodded and led by “mercenaries” from abroad. Most frequently mentioned in government statements have been the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Tehran has rejected Amnesty’s death toll and says some 1,000 protesters had been arrested, although the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran believes the true figure could be four times as high. Rights activists have said that some of those killed were tortured to death after being arrested. Some of the dead include members of Iran’s security forces who were sent out to quell the unrest. Mourners at their funerals have often chanted pro-government slogans.