Iran’s supreme leader backed Sunday a government decision to increase fuel prices which sparked deadly protests over the weekend.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed “thugs” for damaging property  in protests that left at least two people dead. His comments come as the government shut off internet across Iran in an attempt to quell protests over the raising of government-set gasoline prices by 50%.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei talks to clerics in his Islamic thoughts class in Tehran, Nov. 17, 2019.

In a televised address to the nation, Khamenei said “some lost their lives” without elaborating.

The protests put renewed pressure on Iran’s government as it struggles to overcome the U.S. sanctions strangling the country after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Though largely peaceful, demonstrations devolved into violence in several instances, with online videos purporting to show police officers firing tear gas at protesters and mobs setting fires. 

The demonstrations took place in over a dozen cities in the hours following President Hassan Rouhani’s decision early Friday to cut gasoline subsidies to fund handouts for Iran’s poor. 

Gasoline in the country still remains among the cheapest in the world, with the new prices jumping up to a minimum of 15,000 rials per liter of gas — 50% up from the day before. That is 13 cents a liter, about five times lower than the cost of gasoline in the United States by comparison.





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