More than 100 demonstrators are believed to have been killed across Iran since leaders ordered security forces to stamp out protests triggered by fuel price rises, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
“At least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to credible reports,” the London-based rights group said.
It added that “the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed.”
The rights watchdog said the security forces had received a “green light to crush” the protests which broke out on Friday and had spread to more than 100 cities across Iran.
“Authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther, whose organization based its report on “verified video footage, eyewitness testimony from people on the ground and information” from rights activists outside Iran.
Amnesty also urged Iranian authorities to “lift the near-total block on internet access designed to restrict the flow of information about the crackdown to the outside world.”
It said video footage showed that “snipers have also shot into crowds of people from rooftops and, in one case, a helicopter.”
While most demonstrations appeared to have been peaceful, it said, “a small number of protesters turned to stone-throwing and acts of arson and damage to banks and seminaries.”
Security forces had been seen taking away dead bodies and injured people from roads and hospitals, according to witnesses, and refused to hand over bodies of victims to their families, Amnesty said.
A hike in petrol price sparked the protests in which Iran has officially confirmed at least five dead, including three security personnel allegedly stabbed to death by “rioters.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations voiced alarm over reports of a mounting death toll.
The UN rights office said it was alarmed by reports live ammunition was used against protesters and had caused a “significant number of deaths across the country.”
“Iranian media and a number of other sources suggest dozens of people may have been killed and many people injured during protests in at least eight different provinces, with over 1,000 protesters arrested,” he said.
“We urge the Iranian authorities and security forces to avoid the use of force to disperse peaceful assemblies.”
When the demonstrations began on Friday, drivers stopped on major thoroughfares in Tehran to block traffic.
The protests soon turned violent and spread to more than 40 cities and towns, with banks, petrol stations and other public property set ablaze and shops looted.
The demonstrations erupted after it was announced the price of petrol would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 liters purchased over a month and 200 percent for any extra fuel after that.
Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when the United States unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.
Footage of masked young men clashing with security forces has been broadcast on state television, which rarely shows any signs of dissent.
In a video aired Monday night, a man can be seen firing what appears to be an assault rifle as others hurl stones apparently at security forces in the western city of Andimeshk.