Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a warning to protesters this week, saying during a government meeting that Iran would not tolerate rioting, and has monitoring systems and cameras that enable it to identify cars used to block roads, as well as their drivers.
Since the government cannot raise taxes or export more oil, it had no choice but to cut subsidies, added Rouhani, whose remarks were aired on Iran’s Channel 1 television on Monday.
The following is a partial transcript of Rouhani’s address:
Hassan Rouhani: “I feel like I should say a few words to our dear public about the events of the past three days. The main goal of the government in its plan to support livelihood under the economic sanctions, and in light of the pressure on the public’s livelihood, was to help the middle-class and low-income households.
“To accomplish that, we have only three options: To raise taxes and use the revenues to pay [the needy], to export more oil and use the money this would generate for that purpose, or to reduce the subsidies to some extent, and offer the money this would generate to the public. The public is aware that under the current circumstances, there are limitations on our oil sales.
“In years like 2011, we had a yearly income of $110 billion from oil sales. Things are now very different. In addition, we cannot raise taxes significantly. Due to the economic circumstances of our society, we can only collect moderate taxes from the public.
“In 2019, there was an average increase of 9.7 percent in fuel consumption. This is almost 10 percent. If the process continues next year, and since our daily fuel consumption was 97 million liters, the increased consumption this year and next year will force us to import fuel again by 2021.
“The public does not benefit from the fuel price in a balanced manner, so we had no choice but to create some kind of balance. In addition, because benzine and other fuels are cheap in our country, we witness the smuggling of fuel in large quantities to neighboring countries. In fact, it was mainly the smugglers who benefited from cheap fuel.
“When we implemented this plan, we saw that some people took to the streets to protest.
“What the government did, it did in keeping with the law.
“Protests and riots are two different things. Every public has the right to protest, even against the government. Even if this is harsh and bitter criticism, we will welcome it wholeheartedly. They are welcome to say whatever they want, but we must not allow there to be lack of security in our society.
“I have a car so I can drive it, not so I could block the road. If they block the roads … Fortunately, we have so many monitoring systems and cameras that we can identify the cars, the license plates, and the drivers. I ask the judiciary to act according to the law in this regard.
“If anyone wants to abuse this justified protest by the public, and comes with ‘cold’ weapons, machetes, or even firearms, and attacks banks, police stations, or the broadcast authority—we will not tolerate such a thing in our country. Under no circumstances will the government allow anyone to riot and cause a lack of security.”