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Special Features

Security Forces Attacked Isfahan and then Blamed the Locals

November 27, 2019
Milad Pourisa
4 min read
Authorities have accused protesters of destroying buildings and taking firearms onto the streets – but eyewitness accounts say at least some of the damage was caused by security forces
Authorities have accused protesters of destroying buildings and taking firearms onto the streets – but eyewitness accounts say at least some of the damage was caused by security forces

As the internet was reconnected in several cities in Iran, further news about the deaths, arrests and injuries of citizens around the country emerged. 

According to locals, a significant part of Malek Shahr, a neighborhood in Isfahan, has been destroyed by fire after the seven-day protests.

A resident of Malek Shahr told IranWire that not only were residents cut off from the internet, they were denied access to landlines too. "From day one, the communications center caught fire and the neighborhood's landlines were cut off. One of the neighbors says that he had seen from the window of his house that overlooked the city's telecommunications building that people dressed in Basij-like clothes were setting fire to the building. At first, they calmly spread a substance all around the building and then they threw something inside it."

In recent days, judicial authorities have accused protesters of destroying public property and shooting firearms on the street. On Sunday, November 24, Brigadier General Ali Fadawi, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, told Basijis, the Guards’ huge voluntary paramilitary force, that some of the protesters were armed and had fired shots at people from behind.

According to Mehr News Agency, a senior Guards official said: "During recent events, many people were killed while being shot at from a distance of one and a half meters from the back, which means they have been shot at by people from among the protesters." During the crackdown on the Green Movement [following the 2009 presidential election], the security services employed similar propaganda – blaming others for the murders and damage they had carried out.

Prior to this, Gholam Hossein Ismaili, a spokesperson for the judiciary, told a news conference: "The people must report the rioters and saboteurs who have in recent days damaged public and private property to the security and judicial authorities."


Could Ordinary Protesters do Such Damage? 

An eyewitness who spoke with IranWire from Isfahan said, "Many banks and ATM machines were set on fire in Malek Shahr. Not only were there no police officers on the scene to deal with the offenders, but we saw with our own eyes people [agents] in plainclothes setting fire to Saderat Bank in the late hours of the night. The doors of the bank were open that night, and several people, armed with ammunition they had stored in their waistcoats and pants and shirt collars, were photographing the burnt building. Metal sheets have been installed on all the burnt ATMs in Malek Shahr. The bank's computers were burned and documents were thrown in the middle of the street."

He also reported that the subway had been badly damaged. "The Isfahan subway was closed all day during the protests. All the entrances to the stations were covered by metal coverings and the metal frames of the subway doors were torn apart. The concrete benches from the park on the opposite side of Malek Shahr subway station were dumped in the middle of the street. We asked ourselves, how could ordinary people pull up concrete benches without having any tools?"

The eyewitness said most of the protesters in Malek Shahr were people born in the 1970s and 1980s, and that many of them were injured. "On the first day of protests there were no security forces around. The next day, special guards from the security forces came on the scene and arrested a large number of protesters. A local car mechanic, who was carrying a car engine cylinder on his motorcycle, was shot in the hip the same day and taken to the hospital. The man is still under arrest in the hospital, with a bullet in his leg, and [has had] two surgeries. The Malek Shahr Hospital was unbelievably crowded. Dead and wounded people were lying on beds in hospital corridors and the families of those killed said the hospital would not give them the bodies."

He told me that as far as he understands, the forces suppressing Isfahan’s citizens can be divided into two categories: specialist security guards from the Guards and very young plainclothes officers.

According to what he had heard from his neighbors, he says he can confirm reports that security forces demanded money for the return of dead bodies to their families. "We heard that the security forces have asked the families of the detainees and the victims for an amount of 175 million tomans [$14,600] for the delivery of [their loved one’s body] and the release of the detainees ... It is as if they are getting the cost of destroying people's property from the people themselves."

Due to the severe restrictions on information, IranWire cannot independently confirm or deny these statements.

Another eyewitness, a retired hospital employee, spoke about the death toll in Isfahan. "A doctor in Gharazi Hospital told me that the [official] figure of the people who died in Isfahan is a clear lie. I personally discharged at least 20 bodies to the morgue from the hospital's emergency department in the first days of the protests."

According to information provided to IranWire by its various sources, the identities of six protesters in Isfahan province have been confirmed.


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