Iranian security forces may have killed over 1,000 citizens since anti-government protests broke out in mid-November in the wake of an abrupt gasoline price hike, a U.S. State Department official said Thursday, calling it “the worst political crisis the regime has faced in its 40 years.”
“Now is the time for all nations to stand with the Iranian people, diplomatically isolate the regime and sanction those officials who are responsible for murdering innocent Iranians,” U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said at a press conference.
Hook said the U.S. government cannot be certain about the death toll, because “the regime blocks information.” But he said those murdered are likely to include at least a dozen children, including 13- and 14-year-olds.
The bloody crackdown is becoming the latest concern for the United States, which is in a standoff with Iran over a 2015 nuclear deal.
On Monday, Amnesty International said the number of people believed to have been killed during the demonstrations had risen to at least 208, citing “credible reports” received by the organization. The Iranian government has insisted that such figures are exaggerated.
If the United States increases its criticism of Iran over the issue, Japan may be put in a difficult position as arrangements are underway to receive Iranian President Hassan Rouhani possibly later in the month. The visit to the Asian country, if realized, would be the first by an Iranian president in 19 years.
Japan, a resource-poor country, has maintained traditionally friendly relations with Iran, and Tehran may be hoping to use the trip to show that it is not internationally isolated, contrary to the intention of the United States.
But as a key U.S. security ally, Japan has also sought to help reduce tensions between Washington and Tehran.
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