IRAN

Gangs of Iran: Video threats land criminals in jail

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"From the east to the west, you can ask anybody who I am and what I can do!” These lines sound like they were plucked right out of a famous American rappers’ lyrics, but they’re actually from video threats sent by one gangster in Iran to another. This type of intimidation has become popular among rival gangsters on Iran’s northern coast – and it’s got them in hot water with the authorities.

The videos, which are circulated via the popular messaging app Telegram, show local gangsters insulting each other, flexing their muscles, showing off their guns, and, in one case, even beating up a rival.

Here are a few translated threats from this video:

“If you have the heart, come here and I’ll show you what I got!”

“If you’re a man, you must come here and fight face to face! You can’t hurt me by publishing your video [Editor’s Note: His rivals had published a video claiming they had shot and injured him]. Look at me, I’m in perfect health!

The end of the above video compilation shows a well known local gangster from the town of Babo beating up a captive gangster from neighbouring Jouybar, and at one point attacking him with a knife.

After these videos were widely shared on social media, they caught the attention of the police. On Monday, officers swarmed the gangsters’ homes and arrested eight of them. They said that one gangster – the one who filmed himself attacking his rival – is however on the run.

A very public takedown

To publicly shame the gangsters, the police staged their own elaborate videos.

First, they filmed their arrests; then they filmed them being paraded around town in police trucks, making sure to stop in neighbourhoods where the men had committed crimes. Those arrested had already served jail time for a long list of offences, including drug and alcohol trafficking and various acts of violence. This form of public parading is not uncommon in Iran – especially in cases that have garnered wide attention.

 

The province’s police chief said through the gangs videos, the criminals had “inflicted fear upon the population”. They are now facing a very serious charge: “war against God and the state”, which is usually used for terrorists and other violent criminals. Under Iranian law, judges could give them anywhere from a few years in prison to the death penalty.