Protesters carry a man shot during protests in Shiraz, Iran, November 17, 2019

A statement by Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has fed speculation that Iran’s regime may acknowledge the killing of hundreds of protesters by security forces last November.

Fazli said Saturday that the number of those slain was about 200, in the four days of demonstrations across the country.

The Minister said, “Around 40 to 45 people, that is about 20% of the death toll were killed with weapons not issued by the government.” The claim led observers to conclude that Fazli was implying the remaining 155 to 160 victims were shot dead by military and security personnel.

Amnesty International has detailed the slaying of 304 protesters by the security forces, with many shot at close range and some while fleeing. The opposition website Kalemeh reported in early January that more than 600 demonstrators were killed. Iranian officials told Reuters that 1,500 people, including security personnel and bystanders as well as protesters, died.

See also Iran Daily, May 30: “How Could They Shoot at a Kid?” — The State Violence Against Protesters

The four days of rallies were sparked by the Government’s sudden rise of 50% to 200% in petrol prices to raise revenue amid Iran’s economic crisis. The Supreme Leader reportedly told authorities to use “all means” to suppress the marches.

Providing no evidence, Fazli said, “All US media and the opposition including monarchists and Mojahedin-e Khalq [an organization seeking the overthrow of the Islamic Republic] and ISIS were training the protesters for armed struggle.”

He claimed that security forces were told not to confront the people with weapons. But asked why some victims were shot in the head, he said, “We have also shot some in the leg.”