Iran rejected the authenticity of a video circulating on Monday, and confirmed to be real by the Associated Press, of anti-regime protesters helping a woman bleeding profusely after reportedly being shot by Iranian police.
The woman was one of thousands to take the streets again after protesters erupted on Saturday in response to the Iranian regime admitting it had shot down a Ukrainian commercial airliner last week, killing 176 mostly Iranian, Ukrainian, and Canadian passengers. The Islamic regime had concluded in its preliminary report that the Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) flight out of Tehran had crashed after its engine spontaneously caught fire, but ultimately admitted its military had shot the plane down with a Russian Tor missile after mounting international pressure.
Tehran has yet to admit that it lied about the fate of the airliner, instead insisting it had honestly reported its initial findings. Ample video and photographic evidence of Iranian officials bulldozing the crash site before international inspectors arrived contradict this claim.
The incident triggered protests attracting at least a thousand people, according to the state-run Fars News Agency, on Saturday. While Fars insisted the outcry was limited to Tehran and only numbered in the hundreds, independent reports said thousands, many of them students, took the streets in at least five other cities. The Kurdish outlet Rudaw described the crowds nationwide as numbering in the “tens of thousands.”
By Monday, reports began circulating that Iranian police were shooting live fire at protesters. Videos also showed the liberal use of tear gas to disperse crowds in Tehran. Radio Farda, a U.S.-funded information and news outlet, shared a graphic video of blood dripping in the streets of Tehran, believed to be from protesters that police shot with bullets. Those in the videos reportedly shout “clerics get lost!,” “death to the dictator!,” “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” and other anti-government slogans in Farsi. Reuters reported police also beating protesters with batons.
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ویدیوی دریافتی با شرح: "خیابون آزادی #تهران، تقاطع استاد معین یک لباس شخصی #تیراندازی کرد و یک خانم زخمی شد. خورد تو پاش"https://t.co/kofj1qa7cJ#دی۹۸ #IranProtests #Iran #Tehran pic.twitter.com/Ym1NUvKJOH
— Vahid Online (@Vahid) January 12, 2020
The German outlet Deutsche Welle compiled similar images from Azadi Square in Tehran, showing trails of blood on the floor. The outlet also published video of Iranian women tearing down posters of Iranian terror chief Qasem Soleimani, eliminated in an American airstrike this month.
Iranian regime officials claim the strike against Soleimani instilled so much fear into the Iranian military that it prompted soldiers to shoot down the Ukrainian passenger plane.
The Associated Press published the same video of the woman dragged out of the plaza bleeding, stating that it received the video from the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran and verified its authenticity. Those in the videos can be heard shouting “death to the dictator!” and other slogans.
Radio Farda documented similar protests throughout the country.
“Large groups of people gathered at Azadi Square in Tehran and several other cities including Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Gorgan, Rasht, Ahwaz, Qazvin, Semnan, Tabriz and Kermanshah Sunday afternoon and early evening to hold vigils while chanting slogans against the regime and the IRGC,” the outlet noted, “protesting the downing of a Ukrainian airliner that left 176 passengers and crew, including many Iranian students and academics dead.”
The airliner had flown out of Tehran’s international airport en route to Kyiv shortly before an Iranian military missile shot it down.
Radio Farda also quoted local sources saying that Iranian police had elevated security not just around college campuses known as protest hotbeds during waves of unrest, but the Imam Sadeq University, an elite facility for the most trusted young regime loyalists, indicating that outrage against the regime had spread even among previous supporters.
“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” Hossein Rahimi, head of the Tehran police, insisted following the publication of reports of live fire on Monday.
Iranian officials also denied that protesters were increasingly outraged at the regime, instead claiming that the average Iranian was angrier about the elimination of Soleimani.
“Certainly, the Iranian nation’s hatred for the US measures has increased compared with the past,” Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Monday, according to Fars News. Fars published images it claimed to be from a vigil for the dead on the UIA flight but showed a man holding up a photo of Soleimani respectfully, a departure from the images circulating in free media of protesters tearing photos of Soleimani down.
Soleimani was the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, its external terrorist arm tasked with killing regime enemies, such as U.S. soldiers. Soleimani is believed to have coordinated several attacks by the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria against civilians there and is believed to have helped the government of Iraq use snipers to target and kill civilians protesting Iran’s presence in the country. The IRGC is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
Iranian military officials shot down UIA Flight 752 early last Wednesday morning as it took off from Tehran, amid a shower of ballistic missiles targeting Iraqi military sites housing U.S. troops. The ballistic missiles caused no casualties and negligible property damage.
President Donald Trump warned the Iranian government not to attack civilians in a message Sunday.
To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2020