Iranian Law Enforcement Harmed No One in Recent Protests, Police Chief Says


By Azadeh Karimi

Tehran police chief Brigadier General Hossein Rahimi has said his forces did not injure anyone during the deadly wave of protests in November that were sparked by the increase in fuel prices.

“Tehran police did not harm a single person during the November protests,” General Rahimi was quoted by the Young Journalists Club (YJC) as saying on January 1. “Some of our officers were, however, injured. We clashed with protesters in 165 spots in the city without hurting a single agitator.”

Yet Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist member of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) representing Tehran, Ray, Shemiranat, and Iranshahr has said that according to the Islamic Republic of Iran Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), 170 people died during the November protests.

Mr. Kavakebian made the comments at the 18th Congress of the Democracy Party of Iran on January 2. Kavakebian is the Secretary-General of the Democracy Party of Iran, founded in 1999 by the supporters of the former President Mohammad Khatami (in office 1997-2005).

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“The Judiciary has said the SNSC must release the data [death toll]. Why hasn’t it?” Kavakebian was quoted by the Islamic Republic News agency (IRNA) as saying. “During a meeting of the security committee, the SNSC told us the official figure was 170.”

According to human rights organizations and Western media, however, the number of people who lost their lives in the November nationwide civil unrest exceeds 300.

“At least 304 people were killed, and thousands were injured between 15 and 18 November as authorities crushed protests using lethal force, according to credible reports compiled by the organization,” Amnesty International said on December 16. “The Iranian authorities have refused to announce a figure for those killed.”

“Harrowing testimony from eyewitnesses suggests that, almost immediately after the Iranian authorities massacred hundreds of those taking part in nationwide protests, they orchestrated a wide-scale clampdown designed to instill fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened,” said Philip Luther, the Middle East and North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International. “Instead of continuing with this brutal campaign of repression, the Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily detained.”

“About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on November 15,” Reuters news agency reported on December 23. “The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women and some members of the security forces and police.”

The Tehran-based Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA) released the result of a survey conducted among the residents of Tehran titled “The Social Logic of November Protests” in which 75 percent of those surveyed said they believed the protests were “justified.”

The survey also showed that while 29 percent thought the unrest had ceased permanently, 54 percent believed there would be more protests, and the remaining 17 percent were undecided.

According to ISPA, 85 percent of people in the survey said the economy, inflation, unemployment, and an uncertain future were their main concerns, and only 6 percent worried about fuel prices.

The survey also showed that while 30 percent of respondents said they were happy with the conditions in the country in 2017, that number dropped to 15 percent in 2019. Also, only 16 percent of Tehran residents were hopeful about the future, and 52 percent thought the situation would get worse.

Of those who took part in the survey, 71 percent thought the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s (IRIB) coverage of the November protests was anywhere from “Somewhat Biased” to “Completely Biased.”

The survey showed that 60 percent of people got their news and information from social media, newspapers, satellite TV, and friends. Also, 90 percent said they preferred other news sources than the IRIB.

A recent report by the state TV, however, claimed that IRIB was the primary source of information for 81 percent of the country’s population.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]