WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Washington has received nearly 20,000 “messages, videos, pictures, notes” from Iranians depicting what he called "human rights abuses” in Tehran’s response to an outbreak of anti-government protests in the country.
In a briefing on November 26, Pompeo told reporters that the United States would continue to sanction Iranian officials responsible for their actions related to the protests, which Amnesty International says have led to the deaths of at least 143 people.
Iran is facing international condemnation for its crackdown on the protests that rocked more than 100 cities across the country last week following the Iranian government's decision to ration gasoline purchases and cut subsidies.
The protests have developed into more wide-ranging complaints over economic hardships, amid biting U.S. sanctions imposed after Washington withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement.
Iranian authorities, who have historically underreported casualty and detention figures during times of protest, rejected Amnesty International’s numbers.
They also imposed a near-total Internet blackout for several days, making it difficult to evaluate the situation.
Pompeo said he and President Donald Trump have been closely following the protests in what the secretary called the “world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
“The Iranian people are once again on the streets because of the regime’s poor economic management,” Pompeo said.
“And instead of addressing their grievances, Tehran has responded with violence and blaming those outside of the country,” he added.
Pompeo said the government had last week “shut down the Internet to prevent the truth about the protests from getting out” and that he asked Iranians to “share their messages” depicting the situation inside the country as connectivity returns to near-normal levels.
“We’ve received to date nearly 20,000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime’s abuses…and hope they will be continued to be sent to us.”
“We will continue to sanction Iranian officials who are responsible for these human rights abuses, just like we did last week,” he added.
The United States on November 22 imposed sanctions on Iranian Communications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi for what it said was his role in the "vast censorship" of the Internet.
NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide Internet access, on November 26 said that connectivity in Iran had been returned to about 90 percent.