Iran security forces fire tear gas to disperse protesters

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DUBAI, July 16 (Reuters) - Iranian security forces fired tear gas on Thursday to disperse demonstrators gathered in the southwestern city of Behbahan, witnesses told Reuters, and there was a heavy presence of forces in other cities.

Videos posted on social media from inside Iran showed protesters chanting, "Fear not, fear not, we are in this together". Other videos showed a heavy presence of security forces in Tehran and Isfahan. Some protesters chanted slogans against top officials.

The videos on social media could not be verified by Reuters.

"People are angry. The economy is so bad that we cannot survive," said an Iranian man from Tehran, who asked not to be named due to security concerns, reached by telephone.

Iran’s clerical rulers have tried to prevent a revival of anti-government protests that took place in November last year, when thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the deadliest street violence since Iran's 1979 revolution.

Last year's unrest began with protests over economic hardship but turned political, with demonstrators demanding top officials to step down.

Iran's economy, hard hit by U.S. sanctions that have choked off its oil exports, has since further deteriorated as a result of the coronavirus crisis in the past months.

Iran’s judiciary's announced on Tuesday that the death sentences of three men involved in last year's anti-government unrest had been upheld, sparking a surge of online protests against their sentences.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Leslie Adler, Rosalba O'Brien and Peter Graff)

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