Eyewitness: 14 to 16 Year Old Security Forces with BB Guns
An eyewitness who participated in the 1 March protests in Tehran shared details about his experience with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. He reported the presence of 14 to 16-year-old forces who carried police equipment, used BB guns and tear gas, and the presence of tens of thousands of security forces ranging from police to plainclothes and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces.
“The protest walk was planned along a very long distance from Eastern to Western Tehran, from Imam Hossein Square all the way to Azadi Square, and all the streets leading to this path. People had a very visible presence…government forces had a widespread presence and they continually attacked people’s congregations,” the reliable source told the Campaign.
“Hundreds of thousands of protesters showed up on the streets of Tehran today. In the beginning, at around 5:00 p.m., people gathered in large groups on the sidewalks along the path, without chanting any slogans. As more and more people joined the protests, people started chanting slogans inside scattered groups of hundreds along the streets, and then would step onto the streets. Depending on the level of the forces in that location, they would attack people. For example, along the main roads where there were large groups of forces present, as soon as people chanted a slogan, they were attacked with teargas, batons, BB guns, etc., and dispersed,” he added.
“It seemed like forces from many different cities had been moved to Tehran for today. The number of forces was huge. On every street, there were several hundred forces present who were wearing police uniforms, Special Forces uniforms, or IRGC uniforms, but most of them were plainclothes forces. I dare say that throughout Tehran, there were more than 10,000 forces from different organizations. In most locations the forces used teargas, BB guns, paintball bullets, batons, electric tasers, pepper spray, and hoses for beating up and dispersing the crowd. They used tremendous violence while attacking people,” the eyewitness told the Campaign.
“Every conceivable [military] force, except for the Army, was present on the streets. The Basij forces, plainclothes forces, the IRGC, police, Special Forces, emergency services personnel, and security forces were present on all Tehran streets in a widespread manner. Tehran’s atmosphere felt like a complete state of martial law,” he said about the forces confronting protesters.
Asked whether earlier reports about the presence of minors among the police forces were true, the eyewitness confirmed reports. “It is absolutely true. Adolescent Basij members between the ages of 14 and 16 were equipped with batons, BB guns, and pepper sprays. They were dressed in khaki and black camouflage uniforms and were stationed in different areas of Tehran in a very organized way.”
“I dare say there were hundreds of thousands of people, walking in different areas of Tehran on 1 March. Compared to 14 February, I think the same number of people were present during both days, but there were two major differences with that day. First, that the protest groups only started to form after 6:00 p.m. The other is that the very large presence of police forces, Basijis and plainclothes forces on all main and side roads of the city made it possible in very few spots to walk continuously and chant slogans. As soon as people gathered and yelled their slogans, they attacked them with batons, electric tasers, and tear gas. People ran away and dispersed. The large number of forces and their quick attacks on any crowd formation made it impossible to record videos by cell phones, too,” he added.
“Today’s main slogans, which you could hear in all sporadic gatherings, were ‘Death to Dictator,’ ‘Karroubi/Mousavi should be set free,’ ‘Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein,’ ‘Ya Mehdi, Sheikh Mehdi,’ ‘Political prisoners must be set free,’ and other slogans. Most of the slogans were objecting to the arrest of movement leaders and demanding their release, as well as the release of other political prisoners,” the eyewitness told the Campaign.
“Hundreds of people were arrested all over the city yesterday. Most of the arrests were “blind,” where the forces attacked people’s gatherings and would arrest whomever they could from among men, women, old, and young. Of course in a few rare instances, they targeted people for identification and arrest. This is how they arrested Fakhrol-sadat Mohtashamipour [political prisoner Mostafa Tajzadeh’s wife]. When the crowds grew dense, they would shoot into the air in order to disperse people. They repeatedly used tear gas, BB guns, and paintball bullets against people. This particularly happened in Enghelab Square. In Vali-e Asr Square, they shot at people at close range with BB guns, and eight people were seriously injured,” he said.