World Tour: Protests in Iran and Iraq

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa correspondent Onize Ohikere.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Iranians protest over gas price hikes—We start today in the Middle East.

AUDIO: [Ali Rabiei]

The Iranian government tried to minimize ongoing anger over surprise gas price hikes over the weekend. On Monday a government spokesman said that while some protests continued—they were much smaller than the previous day.

AUDIO: [Iranians protest]

Protesters clashed with police on Saturday—a rare sight under the repressive regime. They vandalized stores and government buildings and set fire to several gas stations. The government shut off internet access across the country in an attempt to stop the protests.

At least five people have died, according to state-run media. But Amnesty International estimates the death toll to be much higher—more than 100 people.

The unrest started on Friday after the government announced a 50 percent increase in Iran’s highly subsidized gas prices. Drivers will now pay about 50 cents for a gallon of gas.

Iran has the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserve. But recent U.S. sanctions have battered the country’s economy and driven down the value of its currency.

Protests in Iraq—Meanwhile in Iraq …

AUDIO: [Iraqi protests]

Protesters there marked the eighth week of anti-government rallies by blocking roads to the country’s main port. They also cut off access to a major oil field in the southern province of Basra.

Iraqis are angry over government corruption and a lack of basic public services. They’re also protesting Iran’s influence in Baghdad.

AUDIO: [Iraqi protester]

And on Monday some protesters took credit for inspiring the rallies in Tehran. This woman said the fire in Iraq has now spread to Iran.

Hundreds of documents leaked from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security this week only fueled the anger. The documents published by The New York Times and The Intercept detailed the deep influence Iran has on Iraq’s government.

Iraq’s prime minister has so far declined to comment on the documents.

Sri Lanka gets new president—Next we go to Southeast Asia.

AUDIO: [Sri Lanka firecrackers]

Supporters of Sri Lanka’s new president set off fireworks in the streets of Colombo on Monday. Gotabaya Rajapaksa took the oath of office in a traditional ceremony after winning a landslide victory on Sunday.

RAJAPAKSA: The government should always set an example to the society, professionalism and efficiency should be the cornerstone of government administration.

Rajapaksa is the country’s former defense secretary. He led a brutal military campaign against the Tamil rebels. It ended the group’s nearly four decade long separatist insurgency in 2009. But the military’s tactics drew international condemnation.

Rajapaksa has opposed all efforts to open war crimes investigations. And he blamed the previous administration for dismantling the intelligence network that could have prevented recent attacks against Christians. Nearly 300 people died in Easter Sunday bombings earlier this year.

Russia and Ukraine prepare for peace talks—And finally, we end today in eastern Ukraine.

AUDIO: [Russian tanks]

Tanks and troops retreated from the war-torn region over the weekend. The Ukrainian army and Moscow-backed separatists completed the pullout in preparation for next month’s peace talks.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine began five years ago when Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula. At least 13,000 people died in the fighting that followed.

The peace talks begin in Paris on December 9th.

That’s this week’s World Tour. For WORLD Radio, I’m Onize Ohikere reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.

(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) Anti-government protesters set fire and close streets during ongoing protests in Baghdad, Iraq, in central Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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