'Whatever it takes': Iran crackdown killed 1,500

'Whatever it takes': Iran crackdown killed 1,500...
news.yahoo.com 24/12/2019 Politics


A Reuters special investigation has uncovered that the death toll from last month's protests in Iran is much, much higher than initial estimates from human rights groups and the U.S. government.
Reuters can now report that 1,500 people are thought to have died. Most organizations had previously put it in the hundreds.
The number came to Reuters from sources inside Iran's government and close to the inner circle of the man at the top: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The sources also said that Khamenei had personally ordered the crackdown to stop the protests, quote, "Do whatever it takes to end it," he told his lieutenants.
"You have my order."

The instructions are said to have come at a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and cabinet officials on the second day.
Khamenei was infuriated by accounts that protesters were burning images of him.
Witnesses of the protests have also told Reuters that some demonstrators demanded the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the last Shah of Iran, who now lives in the United States.
The unrest began in response to gasoline prices, which spiked under U.S. sanctions, but it quickly morphed into broader anti-government rallies.
The Reuters sources made clear that everyone at the ayatollah's meeting agreed the protesters intended to overthrow them.
Khamenei told his subordinates that he'd hold them directly responsible for the damage to the country if the protests weren't immediately stopped.
2019 Iranian Protests
The 2019 Iranian Protests (Persian: اعتراضات سراسری ۱۳۹۸ ایران‎) are a series of civil protests occurring in multiple cities across Iran, initially from a 50%–200% (approximately 6.5–19.5 cents US) increase in fuel prices, but included an outcry against the government in Iran and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The protests commenced in the evening of 15 November and within hours spread to 21 cities as videos of the protest began to circulate online. Images of the violent protests were shared on the internet with protests reaching international levels.
Although the protests began as peaceful gatherings, they soon turned into violent riots and revolt against the Iranian government. The Iranian government-employed tactics to shut down the protests including a nationwide internet shutdown and, according to Amnesty international, shooting protesters dead from rooftops, helicopters, and at close range with machine gun fire. According to the residents, as reported by the New York Times, the government forces then proceeded to confiscate the bodies of the dead protesters and truck them away to mask the true casualty count and severity of the protests. The Amnesty International wrote that the families of murdered protesters were threatened by the government from speaking to the media or holding funerals. Although there is currently no conclusive casualty count current estimates suspect the government killed well over 1,000 Iranian citizens. The government crackdown prompted a violent reaction from protesters who destroyed 731 government banks including Iran's central bank, nine Islamic religious centres, tore down anti-American billboards, and posters and statues of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. 50 government military bases were also attacked by protesters. This series of protests have been categorized as the most violent and severe since the rise of Iran's Islamic Republic in 1979.
In order to block the sharing of information regarding the protests and the deaths of hundreds of protesters on social media platforms, the government blocked the Internet nationwide, resulting in a near-total internet blackout of around six days.
Sanctions by the United States and the European Union, coupled with economic mismanagement, have led to a severe economic crisis in Iran in the past few years. Prior to the unrest, current President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani said, "Iran is experiencing one of its hardest years since the 1979 Islamic revolution". Iranian allies in Lebanon and Iraq have also witnessed anti-government protests.
At midnight on 15 November 2019, the Iranian government announced that they would increase the price on fuel. Prior to the price increase, drivers could buy up to 250 litres (66 US gal) for 10,000 Iranian rial per litre (around per US gallon), with the new prices being 15,000 rial per litre (around per US gallon) for the first 60 litres (16 US gal) per month, and 30,000 per litre (around per US gallon) after that, a price increase of 50% to 200%. An Iranian state-television programme described these measures as a way to help fund the subsidies of around 60 million Iranians.
Behzad Nabavi, a former member of Iran’s Parliament, has said in an interview in September 2019, just two months before the uprising, that Razavi Economic Foundation, which contains several smaller entities, jointly with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) control about sixty per cent of Iran’s economy. Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, presides over the foundation. None of these entities pay any taxes and no government organization is allowed to go through their books.
While Iranian people are suffering from the country’s depressed economy a decree issued by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has exempted some trustees from paying taxes. They include the giant organization Khatam al Anbiya Construction Headquarters, and many other smaller entities belonging to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps IRGC.
After the government announced the price increase in the early hours of 15 November, Iranians in various cities took to the streets to protest.
One protester was reportedly killed in Sirjan after security forces opened fire. Other demonstrators in the city set fire to a gas station, and chanted "Rouhani, leave this country". Protesters in Ahvaz demanded that people boycott fuel and stop their cars in the middle of the road as a sign of protest.
In Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city, demonstrators blocked traffic in the streets and highways. Protesters gathered late into the night in Qods, a suburb of Tehran, and destroyed a police vehicle.
Protests continued to expand for a second day on 16 November. Demonstrators gathered in over 50 cities and many major cities such as Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan, and Shiraz to protest the sudden price hike. Security forces shot at protesters with live bullets in an effort to disperse them, killing at least ten protesters in Isfahan, Behbahan, Kermanshah, Karaj, and Shiraz.
Several banks in Eslamshahr, Behbahan, and Tehran, and one religious school in Isfahan were burned down by protesters. In Shahriar demonstrators burned down a monument depicting the ring of the Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.
On 16 November, internet access across the country was reported to be in a near-total shutdown, with online activity estimated to be 7% of ordinary levels.
State news agencies reported that over 1,000 people had been arrested so far and that the protests had spread to over 100 cities in Iran.
Shop owners in Tehran and Isfahan closed the bazaars and went on strike in protest. While in Tabriz, students from the University of Tabriz left their classes and demonstrated at the university.
Students at the University of Tehran gathered for a second consecutive day to protest the current situation in the country and chanted "Death to the dictator", and "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life only for Iran". Protests continued in the Sadeghiyeh neighbourhood of Tehran, and the bazaar was packed with security forces attempting to prevent bazaar merchants from going on strike. Citizens of Tehran reported that despite the internet shutdown, the protests gathered in intensity on Tuesday.
Heavy clashes were also reported in Shiraz, where the security forces fired directly at people. Authorities reported that nine Islamic seminaries and Friday prayer offices were burned by protesters across the country. Protests continued for a fifth consecutive day on 19 November despite a heavy security presence the country. Gatherings were reported in Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz and Isfahan. The city of Shush in Khuzestan province, was effectively closed down as Haft Tappeh workers protested the current conditions.
The Revolutionary Guards reportedly took the bodies of the dead protesters and the injured in hospitals, to hide to cover up the true death toll and downplay the protests. In some cases, government officials sold the bodies of the protesters. The protests reached 70% of provinces according to The Guardian.
On 7 December, coinciding with Students Day in Iran, students in Tehran and various other cities conducted demonstrations in support of the protests. In the early hours of 17 December, students at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran gathered outside the dormitories and protested the killing of protesters.
Internet shutdown
Main article: 2019 Internet blackout in Iran
On the eve of the protests, Iranian authorities started disrupting internet connections and social media. The Internet was effectively blocked following Iran's Supreme National Security Council decision to shut it down for 24 hours.
As per NetBlocks, users first reported outages in Mashhad on 15 November. The disruptions increased in extent and severity with impact also visible on overall connectivity charts. Iran's largest mobile network operators, including MCI, Rightel and IranCell, fell offline on the evening of 16 November 2019. By 20 November, national connectivity was at 5% of ordinary levels, making it difficult to monitor human rights violations and cover incidents on the ground.
The government has also jammed satellite TV connections and sent anonymous messages to people near protest sites reading: “We know you are here.”
On 21 November 2019, a small return of connectivity was tracked by NetBlocks, along with reports that some users had come online; national connectivity was up to 8%.
Chants by demonstrators targeted the government and its leaders with people chanting, "Shah of Iran, return to Iran!", "Clerics must get lost", "No to Gaza, no to Lebanon. We sacrifice our lives for Iran," "Death to the dictator", "Death to the Islamic Republic", "Our military brothers, why do you kill your brother?", "Bless your soul Reza Shah", "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life only for Iran", "Oil money has been lost, it has all been spent on Palestine", "They have brought up Islam, but trampled the people", "The supreme leader lives like a God. We, the people live like beggars." Iranians expressed their opposition to the Islamic Republic's anti-Israel efforts by chanting ”We have no money or fuel, to hell with Palestine.”
Tactics and methods
Protesters began by organizing rallies in protest of Iran's government resulting in police gunfire. As protests were met with government crackdowns, protesters began to block streets and highways. The protests intensified with Iranians burning pictures and banners of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei and burning government banks. Many protest chants and slogans were directed at expressing discontent with the Iranian government's spending on conflicts in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Other chants praised the late Shah of Iran calling for his return.
The government agents in Iran are accused of stealing the bodies of the dead protesters from morgues, and arresting the injured from hospitals, to give the uprising a lower profile.
Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani ordered deadly weapons be used against the Iranians protesting the blatant rise in gasoline prices. Above all government entities, it is the "Supreme National Security Council" that makes decisions on how to deal with such demonstrations and deal with the political crisis. The Council is presided by the president. Iran's constitution prescribes that all decisions taken by the Council should be approved by Khamenei. who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces.
On 10 December 2019 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is a human rights organization based in New York, put Iran among the countries with the highest number of imprisoned journalists.
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network has stated that many detained protesters, some of them underage, are held under gruelling conditions. In addition, sources have characterized conditions in the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary as "unbearable".
Many observers are worried that some of those arrested have undergone severe torture and may face execution.
Arrest of journalists and lawyers
The European Parliament condemned the government of Iran for harassment of lawyers and journalists, and for denying legal assistance to the large number of protesters already in jail.
Deaths and casualties
On December 23, Reuters reported that about 1,500 people were killed during the protests, based on tolls provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials. The tolls include about 400 women and at least 17 teenagers.
A man in Sirjan was killed and several others were injured after security forces opened fire on protesters on 15 November. The following day, ten protesters were killed during demonstrations.
The BBC has reported that there is a huge variance in the number of people killed. Unofficial reports from various sources say that from 15 to 19 November, about 200 people were killed and 3,000 injured. UN Human Rights said "dozens of people may have been killed" while Amnesty International places the number at "at least 106". Iranian authorities say "only a few people have been killed".
As of 19 November, Amnesty International has claimed that around 16 people were killed in Kermanshah, 14 each in Bandar-e Mahshahr and in Javanroud, 9 in Mariwan, 8 in Behbahan, 6 each in Ramhormoz, Sadra and in Shiraz, 4 each in Bukan, Karaj and in Robatkarim, 3 in Khorramshahr, 2 each in Abadan, Ahvaz and in Bumahen, and 1 each in Tehran, Isfahan, Eslamshahr, Sanandaj, Shahriar and in Sirjan. According to the witnesses, the Iranian government brought in tanks to the streets of southern city of Mahshahr and security forces and IRGC used heavy machine guns against unarmed people leading to the death of 40-100 people.
As of 26 November, Amnesty International reported that over 100 people had been killed during the protests, including accounts of wounded or dead protesters removed by government authorities to hide the magnitude of the crackdown on protesters. According to the BBC Persian, the number of deaths has exceeded 200.
According to The Guardian on 1 December, up to 69 protesters were killed in the city of Shiraz alone.
Amnesty International has reported that the Iranian government has been threatening families of the martyred not to talk to the press. They have been forced not to arrange any funeral and bury their loved ones secretly.
Speaking at a news conference at the State Department on 5 December, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook stated that Iranian government forces killed more than 1,000 protesters. There were reports by US-backed Radio Farda that by December 5, 18 children had been killed by the Iranian government.
On 15 December 2019, Amnesty International reported that at least 304 people have been killed in the protests, and blamed the security forces of “massacring” the unarmed demonstrators. On 23 December, Reuters reported that 1,500 people, including 400 women and 17 teenagers, had been killed over the past month.
The savings from the fuel price rises are planned to be distributed to 18 million poor families, representing 75% of Iran's population. However, with inflation already at 40% and a plummeting currency, according to The Economist, "the inflationary effects of the price rise risk wiping out most of the benefit." This inflationary threat has been acknowledged by Khamenei.
Iranian news agency claimed that starting from 19 November 2019, thousands of people in cities across Iran participated in separate pro-government rallies in condemnation of the riots and showed support for the Iran supreme leadership. On 20 November 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared victory against the "enemy". Iran started gradually restoring internet connection the following day. Many supporters (including IRGC leader Hossein Salami) also called for the death penalty on anti-government protesters.
“Human Rights Watchdog”, an organization based in London, has reported in its December 16 statement that one month after the uprising, Iranian security forces are still arresting people and especially youth. Prisons, such as Fashafouyeh prison near the capital Tehran, are overcrowded with detainees, among them juveniles of 15 and younger. Prisoners are faced with daily torture and harassment.
In-house conflicts
9 December 2019, Parvaneh Salahshouri a female member of the parliament spoke against the country’s top officials accusing them of not understanding the griefs of the low-income people and ignoring the deep-seated glitches of the country.
10 December 2019, Ali Motahari, a member of Iran’s parliament spoke out against the policies of the Supreme Leader and that entities under Khamenei’s control have created a stalemate in the parliament. In return another hardliner has asked the Guardian Council to disqualify Motahari as a candidate for the upcoming elections for his “accuses the Supreme Leader in the gasoline issue”.
Fearing that mass uprising can ignite again has created new conflicts within the Iranian ruling system. In early December Mahmood Alavi, the Intelligence Minister, has sent a letter to the speaker of the parliament asking him to stop Mahmood Sadeghi, a member of Parliament, acting “against national interests”. Since the protests began in November, Sadeghi has augmented his attacks against some government entities, the intelligence system, in particular. Sadeghi has also spoken against the forced confessions run by Ministry Intelligence and shown on state TV.
Call for Trials
On 2 December 2019, Tehran bus drivers have called for the trial of those who ordered shooting at protesters in different cities of Iran. The labour union has described the government’s brutal measures as a “massacre and bloody suppression" of people. The statement, issued by the Syndicate of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, has also shown concern about the fate of thousands of protesters detained during the demonstrations.
6 December 2019 - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed her deep concern about the treatment of a large number of people arrested in recent days of demonstrations in Iran. She was also concerned about torture or execution of detainees by the Iranian regime.
9 December 2019, Amnesty International has started a petition in which human rights organizations ask UN member states to condemn Iranian regime for its brutal crackdown of unarmed protesters in November uprising. The signatories include International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), , Human Rights Watch (HRW) Justice for Iran and Amnesty International.
10 December 2019 -There should be an investigation into the November brutal suppression of protesters by government forces in Iran, about 160 Iranian lawyers are demanding. The lawyers also alarmed about the destiny of several thousand detained.
Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei
At the beginning of Dars-e Kharej on 17 November, he remarked that he was not an expert in this regard, but this policy had been adopted by the heads of the country, based on expert opinion. Therefore, this decision should be acted on. He said that in any case, some people had become displeased, but setting fire to such and such a bank was not the action of the people; rather it was the action of thugs. Such actions were not carried out by ordinary people, Khamenei claimed. "Of course, officials should also pay attention and decrease the problems associated as much as they can." Khamenei also blamed the protests on “all of the centres of villainy around the world that oppose us.”
Also at a meeting with producers, economic activists and entrepreneurs on 19 November he stated: "Both friends and foes should know that we have repelled the enemy in the war in military, political and security issues. The recent actions were security issues, not from the people. We have repelled the enemy in various areas, and by God's grace, we will also definitely repel the enemy in the economic war."
Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran's deposed Shah, tweeted that the Islamic Republic had brought only poverty and suffering to the Iranian people. He also said that the only thing offered for free by the Islamic Republic was oil to its allies in the region, a reference to Syria's president Bashar Assad.
Parvaneh Salahshouri, a member of parliament, stated that the decision to increase the price of fuel was not made by the Majles and had been made by the heads of the three branches. Salahshouri stated, "It has been a while now that parliament is not involved in the decision-making process." She continued and, referring to the parliament, said, "The last semblance of a democracy we had is no more. Shut down the next parliament, it is an act of economic resistance".
Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Alavi Gorgani asked the government to "change their decision to increase fuel prices before it is too late".
Abolfazl Bahrampour, prominent Iranian Quran scholar, stated that the arrested protesters are Muharib and do not deserve normal execution, but must be tortured to death by mutilation of their right hands and left feet. He made these comments in the Iranian state-sponsored IRIB TV1 citing the 33rd Ayah of Al-Ma'ida Surah: "... The only punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is that they should be murdered, or crucified, or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides ...".
Dozens of artists living inside Iran published a statement in support of protesters, saying they will not forget the young faces of the dead, who were killed and then ignored by associating them with “foreigners”. The statement condemned the violation of the people's "most basic human rights" and their "most apparent needs", and warned that people’s voices “will remain in history”. Prominent filmmakers including two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi and Berlinale-winner Jafar Panahi, as well as well-known musicians Hossein Alizadeh and Kayhan Kalhor, are among the signatories of the statement. The statement also ridicules speeches by Iranian officials who have blamed protesters as being agents of foreign states, saying “the regime is trying to justify killing them”.
Golshifteh Farahani, an Iranian actress who has been living in exile in France for the past decade, also carried out an extensive and moving interview about the violent response to protests and the high number of people killed, wounded, or arrested. Speaking to Brut America, Farahani explained that many protesters started demonstrating because of a hike in gas prices, but "never came back home". In the emotional video, the renowned actress stated that the killed protesters were "son of some people", "fathers of some people", "daughters of some people", and "they are dead now".
Hichkas, Iranian rapper released a song about the recent protests and the inequality that plagues the Iranian society. In the song, titled "Clenched His Fists", the exiled rapper states the various grievances that led to the demonstrations and describes the brutality of the security forces. The song is in the spoken word format and includes audio snippets recorded by protesters on the street, where voices can be heard saying "they are shooting people".
University Students
On 7 December 2019, commemorating the student’s day. university students in various parts of Iran organized rallies shouting slogans against Hassan Rouhani and “chief Justice” Ebrahim Raeesi. Students also condemned the government for shooting and killing people during recent demonstrations.
Iranian regime threatens the families of those killed in recent protests not to talk to reporters or others. Nevertheless, families of young people killed by the regime’s security forces are not giving in. Mother of Pooya Bakhtiari, killed by government agents, says her son was a "national hero". She continued that her son pursued "freedom, justice and truth", something that Iran's authorities will not grant to the people.
United States United States:
U.S. President of the United States Donald Trump announced his support for the protesting stating "Iran has become so unstable that the government has shut down their entire Internet System so that the Great Iranian people cannot talk about the tremendous violence taking place within the country...."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the demonstrations and stated that "The United States is with ".
The Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders criticized the Iranian government for not letting its civilians protest for a "better future" and to stop "showing violence against demonstrators."
On 3 December, US President Donald Trump, while attending NATO summit in London, said, "Iran is killing perhaps thousands and thousands of people right now as we speak”.
The United States said that the Iranian government had committed "gross human rights violations" during the protests.
European Union European Union:
Josep Borrell, European Union's new High Representative for Foreign Affairs has condemned the use of deadly force by the Iranian regime against peaceful demonstrators.
Almost all political groups and tendencies in the European Parliament voted in favour of a resolution which condemned the Iranian government for its extensive use of force against peaceful protesters in November uprising. European lawmakers called for an independent investigation into atrocities including direct shooting at demonstrators. The resolution calls on the Iranian government “to announce the total number of detainees”. The European parliament condemned the government of Iran for harassment of lawyers and journalists, and for denying legal assistance to the large number of protesters already in jail.
Almost all political groups and tendencies in the European Parliament voted in favour of a resolution which condemned the Iranian government for its extensive use of force against peaceful protesters in November uprising. European lawmakers called for an independent investigation into atrocities including direct shooting at demonstrators. The resolution calls on the Iranian government “to announce the total number of detainees”.
Germany Germany: Chancellery urged Iran to respect the "legitimate" protests against a petrol price hike and open talks with the demonstrators: "It is legitimate and deserving of our respect when people courageously air their economic and political grievances, as is currently happening in Iran," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer.
France France: The French government said on Wednesday it was deeply concerned about reports of many deaths during protests in Iran and called on Tehran to respect its international human rights duties. France "expresses its deep concern over reports of the deaths of many demonstrators in recent days," Foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily online briefing. "France calls on Iran to respect its international human rights obligations."
Israel Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Iranian anti-government protesters while denying as "laughable" Tehran’s apparent accusations that Israel was behind the demonstrations.
Sweden Sweden: Foreign Minister Ann Linde wrote on Twitter: "Terrible casualties in Iran. Nothing can justify this violence. Today's ambassador to Sweden from Our view is informed."
The United States implemented sanctions on Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran's communications minister, following the deactivation of internet servers inside Iran.
On 19 December 2019, the United States Government enforced sanctions on Two Iranian judges, Abolghassem Salavati and Mohammad Moghisseh, for suppressing “freedoms of speech and assembly”. Thousands of people are now in Iran’s jails just for participating in November uprising. They may face torture or even execution. The two judges have long records of issuing long term prison sentences or death penalties for Iranians longing for democracy and opposed to the rule of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
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