(CNSNews.com) – Iranians have sent the State Department nearly 20,000 messages, images and video clips showing regime abuses since the U.S. five days ago urged them to do so amid Internet blackouts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.
“I hope they will continue to be sent to us,” he told reporters at the State Department. “We will continue to sanction Iranian officials who are responsible for these human rights abuses, just like we did last week to Iran’s minister of communications.”
Pompeo said he and President Trump were closely watching unfolding events in Iran, where protests erupted ten days ago after the regime announced fuel price hikes and rationing.
“The Iranian people are, once again, on the streets because of the regime’s poor economic management,” he said. “And instead of addressing their grievances, Tehran has responded with violence and by blaming those outside of the country.”
The regime has accused the U.S. and other nations as well as exiled dissidents groups of stoking unrest, blaming the economic woes on the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign. Pompeo earlier rejected that charge, saying the regime’s support for violent proxies and military intervention in the region, along with official corruption, predated the reimposition of the sanctions.
“To the courageous people of Iran who refuse to stay silent about 40 years of abuse by the ruling regime, I say simply this: The United States hears you,” he said Tuesday. “We support you and we will continue to stand with you in your struggle for a brighter future for your people and for your great nation.”
The messages, video clips and images from Iran are being sent via the Telegram messaging app. Earlier, Pompeo encouraged Iranians to get in touch, using a Telegram channel belonging to the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program (@RFJ_Farsi_Bot).
NetBlocks, a digital rights group monitoring Iran’s Internet in real time, says connectivity has been partially restored. As of early Wednesday local time, the three major 4G networks were at 73 percent, 21 percent, and one percent of normal levels.
In Washington, the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) – whose Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) affiliate is one of the groups the regime is blaming for the protests – held a press conference to release an update on developments on the ground.
Based on the latest information obtained from sources inside Iran, it said, 176 cities in all 31 of the countries provinces have been affected, more than 450 people have been killed and more than 4,000 injured in the regime crackdown, and more than 10,000 demonstrators have been arrested.
The organization has released a list of 154 names of those reported to have been killed.
The NCRI said in a 62-page report that while protestors’ slogans had at first dealt with gas prices, the focus quickly became political, criticizing the regime and its leaders, and condemning regime policies relating to Syria, Gaza and Lebanon. Among them:
“Dictator, shame on you. Let go of the country.”
“Our enemy is right here. They lie when they say it is America.”
“We’ve shed tears of blood for forty years. It’s enough, we will stand up.”
The NCRI said protestors targeted symbols of the regime and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), attacking gas stations, state-owned and IRGC-linked banks, and offices of mullahs affiliated with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The report said as the wave of protests took hold, the regular police force was placed under the operational control of the IRGC. Names and photos of IRGC commanders and other relevant officials across Iran’s provinces were included in the report.
“The protests showed extreme vulnerability of the Iranian regime, its weakness and isolation among its own people,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the NCRI’s U.S. representative office, said by email.
“The uprising also showed that the Iranian people are capable to bring down this regime and willing to pay the price to do so.”
Jafarzadeh called on the international community to condemn the regime, help to ensure that Iranians have uninterrupted access to the Internet, and “prevent the massacre of detained protesters.” He said the U.N. should also send investigators to probe the killings and detentions.
“The world must recognize the right of the Iranian people to change the regime and establish a democratic, pluralistic, and non-nuclear republic in Iran,” he said.
On Tuesday, Iran’s justice ministry said it was placing legal restrictions on Iran International, a London-based television network which interviewed Pompeo about the protests just three days earlier.
The ministry described the network as a “Saudi-Zionist” enterprise and accused it of organizing “terrorist, subversive and separatist acts” and encouraging “destruction of public property.”
Iran International has denied claims in the past that it is connected to Saudi Arabia or any other government.