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Editorial: Protests getting out of control

It’s been more than a week that Iran is submerging nationwide protests sparked by a two-fold rise in fuel prices and the rationing of petrol. As per the Iranian authorities, the spike in fuel prices is ostensibly acting in the public interest and that the money raised would be distributed to the country’s neediest citizens. But the decision was met with widespread anger in a country where the economy is already reeling as a result of US sanctions. Due to these pressures on the Iranian economy, the country’s oil exports have collapsed; the value of its currency Rial has plummeted; prices of basic goods have soared. Meanwhile, the downside of all this is that according to Amnesty International, more than 100 people were killed during the protests which hit several cities. Also, Iran has arrested about 100 leaders of the protestors, who have resorted to arson attacks by setting ablaze banks and petrol stations. Moreover, information coming out of Iran has also been difficult as the state restricted Iranians’ access to the internet, with a near-total shutdown of the web since the beginning of the unrest. The situation of Iranians is disturbing and the precise level of bloodshed is still unknown. The Iranian state shouldn’t deal with violence but rather handle protests in a humane manner and thus cater to the public demands. Clamping down on the internet is the most extreme measure because it’s preventing people from exercising their right to communicate, as well as it provides the government the opportunity to conceal its illegitimate activities that are used to quell the anti-regime protests.

The country has a long precedent of protests in its history, with causes ranging from economic hardships to government corruption and others, but it has always been able to subdue them with any means it could employ. The core reason behind the current unrest can be summarized as the unacceptable economic situation and its mainly because of the crippling US sanctions, which were reinstated last year when President Donald Trump abandoned the international 2015 deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear ambitions. Thus, the country predominantly relying on its petrochemical industry is now unable to sell its oil and gas or access the international financial system. This has dealt a huge blow to the country and has sparked civil unrest as the government has taken its toll on people to raise funds in order to stay stable economically. The Iranian state should work on improving its economic situation and find an immediate solution to the deadlock; otherwise, instability is likely to increase in the country and would ultimately get out of control. This, in turn, would have a ripple effect on the whole region and particularly Afghanistan which is already engaged in clawing its way out of the current electoral crisis and trying to make peace with insurgents through the resumption of peace negotiations.

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