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Iran declares victory over protesters after a week of deadly unrest

Iran rocked by deadly protests

Iranian authorities have declared victory over anti-government protesters after a week of the worst unrest in the country in a decade. Amnesty International said earlier this week that at least 106 people had been killed, but both the organization and many people in Iran believe the death toll is much higher. 

The actual toll cannot be confirmed. Iran's government has admitted to only a handful of deaths, and they have virtually cut the country off from the world for days. Internet access across Iran has been down with few exceptions, making it difficult to confirm even that the violence has totally stopped across the nation of 81 million. 

It has been the worst unrest in Iran since deadly clashes following disputed national elections in 2009, and residents tell CBS News the government's response, in terms of its brutality and the information blackout, has been unprecedented.

Shutting down the internet nationwide helped authorities quell riotous protests that left businesses burned to the ground. It also left the outside world largely in the dark about the extent of what has gone on this week in Iran. Many Iranians have felt ignored by the international media and its audiences.

CBS News has not been permitted to travel to Iran to cover the protests. Virtually all foreign media have been banned. 

The government dismissed the Amnesty report earlier this week as "baseless allegations and fabricated figures." The official death toll is less than 10.

The protests began over a sudden hike in gas prices. Tehran residents said the price of gas at the pumps rocketed 300% in one day. Following that change over the weekend, protests erupted in more than 100 cities.

The government has relied not only on cutting internet and phone lines, but on mass arrests. Some of the videos that did make it online showed security forces opening fire at protesters. There have been multiple reports of live ammunition being used.  

With the harsh reaction from security forces, witnesses say the protesters' chants became more radical, with some accusing their own government of being "the enemy," and lying to them "that our enemy is America."

"Leave Syria alone, do something for us," some shouted.

Riot police tries to disperse people as they protest on a highway against increased gas price in Tehran
Riot police tries to disperse people as they protest on a highway against increased gas price in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters WANA NEWS AGENCY

The unrest was more serious in less affluent suburbs of Tehran and other big cities with large working class populations.

Iranian authorities have condemned the protests, accusing the demonstrators of being puppets of its adversaries, chiefly the U.S., Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Iranian government claims there were armed and well-trained groups among the anti-government protesters, who they say killed some members of the security forces.

The government has told Iranians that the internet will be reconnected gradually, and some Tehran residents were back online Friday, but officials have not made clear when everyone in the country will be reconnected.  

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Iranian people to "send us their videos, photos, and information documenting the regime's crackdown on protesters. The U.S. will expose and sanction the abuses."  

"We condemn strongly any acts of violence committed by this regime against the Iranian people and are deeply concerned by reports of several fatalities," Pompeo said Monday. "The Islamic Republic must cease violence against its own people and should immediately restore the ability of all Iranians to access a free and open internet. The world is watching."

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