Two weeks have passed since the November fuel price protests started in Iran – when the government not only tried to suppress the unrest, but also blocked internet access – and disruption to the telecommunications system is still ongoing. Some experts believe the lack of internet connection for mobile operators and internet service providers was intended to cause Iranians to lose track of the photos and videos produced by citizen journalists in the country.
This report was filmed by Mobin, a citizen journalist in Ahvaz, on November 16 and was finally sent to IranWire after 11 days.
Mobin told IranWire: ”People were spontaneously beginning to protest from 9am [on November 16]. I’d left the house to run an errand but when I saw people gathering I gave up. I stayed on the street. People have become smarter and more experienced in recent years. We have experienced attacks by riot police so we tried to our best to not provoke them or to give them any excuse to attack us. The videos I made are also clear. People would invite each other to sit. Everyone was sitting on the street. They were shaking hands and chanting: "Fuel has become more expensive, the poor have become poorer," and similar slogans.
The video shows that protesters even sometimes called on the riot police to join with the people.
Mobin believes that while the people intended for their protests to be peaceful, officials were already planning to attack the crowds.
“From the time I was on the street at 9am, when people were still appearing, up until around 9pm, there was nothing happening. No one set fire to anything, no one was violent,” Mobin told IranWire. “But around midnight, one of the people in the crowd stood up and started talking about poverty. Shots were suddenly fired – the security forces were using both rubber and live rounds. The riot police then resorted to tear gas. Many people were injured, some right in front of me."
Mobin adds that, although he did not see it himself, some people were killed during this incident.
“We heard people shouting,” Mobin said, “and saying ‘Young people were killed!’ It was not surprising. A few days ago, in Ahvaz, the police and the Basij opened fire on people after the funeral of the popular poet Hasan Heydari, who had died in hospital under suspicious circumstances. We had to run away. The government forces were armed to the teeth and the people were defenseless. Our only weapon was screaming and throwing stones. They were shooting at us according to their duty, we were screaming from hunger and poverty."
Mobin says that he "could never understand how a person, who is a part of a society, can just by changing his clothes give himself the right to shoot, injure, or kill his fellow citizens. The authorities killed the people and then spun their usual narrative in their national media. They said it was a riot. This was not a riot. We are hungry. We ran away down the alleyways. Some people would open their doors to shelter the people; some not."
Mobin finishes his testimonial by saying that “there was no violence by the protesters in Ahvaz that afternoon. After we were wounded, after some of us were killed, we had no way to either bow our heads and return home, or to stand up and fight for our rights. Until then, there was no intention to be violent. We kept our cool. But by 9pm the people were no longer be silent. Being civlized, shouting slogans, are valid if the other side is also civilized. But you cannot act in a civilized way while the other side is shooting at you."