What the videos reveal about Iran’s crackdown on protests

A visual forensic analysis shows authorities use indiscriminate force, violent arrests, and limited internet service to quell demonstrations.

Videos of protests across the country in Iran show the strategies security forces use to suppress protests. (Video: 1500 Tasvir/Telegram/Twitter)

Iran is bold and bracing protestsspanning an unstable nation for more than two weeks, have been marked by defiant acts and bold slogans challenging the country’s clerical leadership and its stifling restrictions on all aspects of social life.

Government security forces have responded with deadly and uncompromising force. At least 52 people have died, according to International Amnestyincluding women and children.

The ongoing protests began in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who fell into a coma after being detained by the country’s hated “morality police.”

In videos that began circulating online on October 2, armed police and protesters are seen running near Sharif University as explosions are heard. (Video: Reuters)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed on monday that the riots had been instigated by foreign powers and blamed protesters for the violence: “Those who attack the police are leaving Iranian citizens defenseless against thugs, thieves and extortionists,” he said.

Khamenei gave his full backing to the security forces, signaling a new wave of repression could be coming.

To understand the scope of government campaign against protesters, The Washington Post analyzed hundreds of videos and photos of protests, spoke with human rights activists, interviewed protesters, and reviewed data collected by internet monitoring groups. The Post geolocated videos of protests in at least 22 cities, from the Kurdistan region, where the protests began, to Bandar Abbas, a port city on the Persian Gulf, to Rasht on the Caspian Sea coast.

The investigation focused on three key tactics used by the government to Special person the protests: the apparent use of live ammunition by the security forces, selective arrests and the limitation of Internet service.

The Post interviewed protesters in Marivan, Balo and Tehran, who corroborated the findings. All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from security forces.

The protester in Marivan, a city of 50,000 in the Kurdish west, described the scene on Saturday as akin to martial law. “All the security forces were out. … I would say more than 1,000. They filled all the squares, intersections and main streets.”

The Post geolocated videos from seven cities that appear to show security forces firing on protesters. Although it was impossible to verify the type of rounds used from the videos alone, “it is very likely [security forces] they were using live rounds against protesters during the events of the last few days and weeks,” said NR Jenzen-Jones, director of Armament Research Services, who reviewed the videos for The Post.

Security forces have been shooting indiscriminately at protesters since the start of the protests, according to 1500 Tasvir, an anti-government watchdog group. Videos recorded on September 17 in the Kurdish city of Saqqez, Amini’s hometown, seems to corroborate the claim. They show protesters marching through the city center on the same day as Amini’s funeral. They are quickly dispersed by officers on motorcycles who fire in the direction of the crowd.

A video posted on September 17 shows an injured protester in Saqqez, Iran, being rushed to a medical facility. (Video: Twitter)

Video shot on nearby side streets captures a frantic group carrying a young man, unconscious and covered in blood, to a medical facility.

Analysts at Janes, a defense intelligence group, also reviewed videos for The Post and determined that at least two videos likely showed the use of live ammunition.

Videos posted online on September 20 in Rasht and on September 23 in Tehran show officers firing into the crowd, using what are likely to be live bullets, according to analysts. (Video: 1500 Tasvir; Telegram)

In a video posted on September 20, officers fire pistols into the air and into retreating crowds in the northern city of Rasht. The officer on the left is likely firing live bullets into the air where there is no point of impact, according to Andrew Galer, Janes’ head of ground platforms and weapons.

A video posted on September 23 in Tehran shows a man in military uniform calmly aiming and firing an AK-47 assault rifle variant, according to Janes. While blank cartridges are made for the AK-47, Janes said, he has no record of less-lethal or riot-control rounds being made for the weapon. “About the probability, [these] they are evaluated as live rounds”, concluded Galer.

A leaked document from Iran’s armed forces headquarters on September 21, obtained by Amnesty International and reviewed by The Post, ordered security forces to “severely confront” protesters. Another document, issued two days later by the commander of the armed forces in Mazandaran province, went even further, ordering the security forces to “mercilessly confront, and even cause death, any disturbance by rioters and anti-revolutionaries.” ”.

Protesters interviewed by The Post in the western cities of Marivan and Balo told The Post they had witnessed protesters being fired upon by security forces.

“Security forces fired directly at people in Darai Square,” said the protester in Marivan, describing the October 1 crackdown. “They had no intention of arresting or defusing the situation. They just wanted to shoot.”

The Balo protester described a chilling “ambush” on September 21 by the Basij, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. “Basij members were already on the roofs of nearby buildings,” the protester said. “They started shooting into the air and the crowd dispersed.” Other Basij fighters took to the streets, shooting first in the air and then directly at fleeing protesters, he told The Post.

Two young men died in the barrage of bullets, he said, one was shot in the stomach and the other in the throat. Hengaw, a Kurdish rights group, corroborated their deaths, and The Post shared videos of their funerals.

The Post verified and geolocated five videos showing security forces violently arresting protesters in five Iranian cities over the past two weeks. Videos show security forces often detaining protesters away from the crowd, on side streets. Some arresting officers rode motorcycles, allowing them to quickly descend on protesters and take them away.

The protester in Balo recounted Basij members making arrests in the middle of the night on September 21 and using tear gas to force civilians from their homes.

“They [the Basij] Come in civilian clothes and cover your face. It creates fear,” the protester said.

As of September 30, security forces had arrested at least 50 people in Balo, and most remain in custody, according to the protester. “There are no longer any protests in Balo because of the fear they created,” said the protester. “After 10 at night, you don’t see anyone outside.”

The prisoners in Iran are routinely subjected to torture and other inhuman treatment, human rights groups have found, and families often have difficulty obtaining information about loved ones who have been detained. “Documented acts of torture and other ill-treatment raise concerns that hundreds of people detained since the start of the protests are at risk of similar treatment in custody,” Amnesty said.

Videos shared by the anti-government monitoring group 1500 Tasvir and verified by The Post show violent arrests of protesters in cities across Iran. (Video: 1500 Tasvir)

In a video from Gorgan, the capital of Golestan province. In the Northeast, officers on motorcycles surround and beat up a protester outside a closed store for the night before arresting him.

In Tehran, a video shows officers walking a man in a black shirt, hands behind his back, down a busy downtown street. They then force him onto the back of a motorcycle driven by an officer and speed away.

In another video from Kermanshah in the west, a protester surrounded by officers on motorcycles is placed in a police vehicle and driven away.

Iran has frequently employed internet outages during the unrest, making it difficult for protesters to communicate with each other and the outside world. But the cuts of the last two weeks have been more specific and appear to show a higher level of sophistication.

Network traffic data from Iran to Google’s web search product shows significant disruptions on nights beginning September 21, the bloodiest night of protests yet and a crucial turning point in the government’s response, according to Raha Bahraini, human rights lawyer and researcher from Iran. by Amnesty. Most of the deaths recorded by Amnesty took place on 21 September.

According to The Post’s analysis of internet data, traffic patterns show a cyclical nature of the outages, beginning every evening around 4 pm local time, the end of the Iranian workday, when most protests, and return to normal levels after midnight.

Instagram and WhatsApp, the main video-sharing platforms, were also shut down on September 21. according to NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors global Internet access. These restrictions have coincided with sudden declines in visual evidence coming out of Iran.

The Post tracked the number of protest videos coming from a Telegram account that regularly posts and circulates clips. The count revealed the direct impact of limited internet connectivity, with the number dropping from around 80 new clips on September 21 to just 40 the following day.

1500 Tasvir told The Post that in the early days of the protests, the group received more than 3,000 videos a day. After the rise in internet outages, that number dropped dramatically, to around 100 to 200 videos per day.

Protesters who spoke to The Post confirmed the internet restrictions seen in the data.

“Most people don’t have internet at home,” said the protester in Balo. “They only have internet on their SIM card, and it cuts off between 4 and 10 at night. And even when it comes back, it’s still very bad.”

That account was repeated by the protester in Marivan: “The internet goes down every day at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and doesn’t come back until around midnight or 1 am,” the protester said. “None of the big apps like Instagram, WhatsApp or Telegram work.”

Despite the violence of the security forces, and the daily blackouts, the protesters continue in the streets. For some, the crackdown has only made them more determined. The protester in Tehran recalled a scene from a recent protest, where he and his compatriots dragged garbage cans into the street and set them on fire. When the security forces approached on motorcycles, they began to chant:

“We didn’t have our people killed to compromise.”

Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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