Pooya Bakhtiari was shot in the head and killed by security forces during Iran’s protests, November 16, 2019

The number of confirmed killings continues to rise in Iran’s mass protests over petrol prices.

Two weeks after the demonstrations surged over a Government announcement of a price increase between 50% and 200%, Amnesty International raised the confirmed toll to 161, warning that the total of killings is likely to be far higher.

Amnesty has compiled the toll from witness accounts, information from relatives, and assessment of videos. However, the near-total cutoff of Internet by Iranian authorities has limited news of the scope of the protests and killings.

The news website of the Green Movement, Kalameh, said Thursday that at least 366 people have been shot to death by security forces.

Amnesty is reported victims as young as 13, while Kalameh said a nine-month-old baby was slain.

Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, a manager of Kalameh, cited “reliable sources” for the toll, including 43 in Shahryar, southwest of Tehran.

Amnesty has also reported a high toll near Tehran as well as in Khuzestan in southwest Iran and Kermanshah in the west.

The organization says many of the protesters have been shot at close range, and some while running away. Bodies have not been returned to families, who have been threatened with arrest if they speak to the media.

But activists such as Masih Alinejad says relatives and witnesses are taking the risk of giving accounts. Alinejad said on Friday that she has received almost 500 videos in the past five days.

More than 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested, as Iranian officials said scores of banks and Government buildings were burnt.

The Supreme Leader, President Hassan Rouhani, and other officials have proclaimed victory over the protests, but detentions are continuing. Security forces said that they arrested more than 50 people in Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan, with claims of “confessions”.

A senior official in the Intelligence Ministry reinforced the regime narrative of foreign instigation of the demonstrations, saying that eight people have been seized for sending reports and images to a US intelligence agency.

Regime Denial of Death Toll

Iranian officials tried to dismiss Amnesty’s update on the killings. Deputy Interior Minister Jamal Orf said:

Statistics by international organizations on those killed in the recent incidents are not credible….International institutions provide statistics on the number of those killed that do not correspond to reality and exaggerate the death toll.

Orf said Iran’s prosecutors would soon announce figures based on reports from the coroner’s office.

Attorney General Mohammad Ja’afar Montazeri echoed Orf’s comments, insisted “none of the statistics released on those arrested and killed in recent incidents are valid”.

Montazeri went even farther in knocking back statements from other offices, apparently over the number of arrests: “No official is allowed to make such statements without accurate statistics.”