A shotgun carried by a man in plainclothes, three women bleeding 70 metres away, teargas fired at screaming protesters… amateur videos filmed along Tehran’s Azadi Street on January 12 show that Iran’s security forces are still inflicting pain and injury on their citizens, even if they have put aside the Kalashnikovs they used to kill hundreds of protesters in November.

Five amateur videos verified by the France 24 Observers show incidents along a 1,600-metre stretch of Tehran’s Azadi Street. A January 15 report by Amnesty International says that security forces in Iran used “unlawful force” over the January 11-12 weekend, firing metal airgun pellets as well as rubber bullets and teargas at people demonstrating peacefully after Iran’s admission that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner. The group said the forces deployed included members of police special forces, the Basij militia and plainclothes agents.

Amnesty’s report did not mention any use of military weapons against protesters on the weekend of January 11-12. That was in marked contrast to the brutal repression of protests November 15-18, in which Iranian forces used military weapons such as Kalashnikov assault rifles against protesters, killing more than 300 people.

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“The pattern is very different from November. The security forces have been using different weapons and there have been no deaths reported so far,” Amnesty weapons expert Brian Castner told France 24.

Castner said projectiles like airgun pellets are not designed to kill, but can still cause injuries. “They are not lethal weapons, but they can take out your eye or give you a wound that gets infected,” he said. “And they’re extremely painful.” Such “less-lethal weapons”, he said, “can kill when used in an inappropriate way: if they are shot at close range for instance, or shot at the head”.

State media quoted Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, as saying: “Police did not shoot in the gatherings, since broad-mindedness and restraint have been the agenda of the police forces of the capital.”

Azadi Street videos show women injured; plainclothes man with shotgun

The France 24 Observers have verified five amateur videos that were filmed on Tehran’s Azadi Street on January 12. The videos were circulating via Telegram, the messaging app popular in Iran.

One video shows a group of five police officers in green uniforms with two men in plainclothes, one of them holding a shotgun. Distinctive features in the video show that it was filmed on Azadi Street, at the corner of Ostad Moein Street. The man in plainclothes is seen running east with the shotgun.

This video, filmed January 12, 2020, on Tehran’s Azadi Street, shows a man in a black civilian suit holding a shotgun as a police officer in green uniform stands by. The man in plainclothes runs out of frame, heading east. The camera then pans left to show four other police officers and another man in plainclothes.

Two other videos were filmed 70 metres further east on Azadi Street. One shows two women wounded in the leg, with blood on the ground; the other shows a third woman, also wounded in the leg.

In this video, filmed January 12 on Tehran’s Azadi Street, two women are seen apparently wounded in the leg as passers-by help them.

In this video, also filmed January 12 on Tehran’s Azadi Street, a third woman lies on the ground, also apparently wounded in the leg, in front of Tehran’s 9th district municipality building.

Protesters wounded on pedestrian bridge

Another video shows protesters gathered on a pedestrian bridge. Shots are heard, and metallic pings as projectiles hit the metal of the bridge. An eyewitness told France 24 he saw two of his friends get shot on the bridge, one in the head and one in the leg. He said they were taken to hospital for surgery.

This video was filmed at the intersection between Azadi Street and Habibollahi Street 800 metres east of where the three women were shot. Shots can be heard, as well as the sound of projectiles hitting the bridge. A witness told France 24 two people were wounded.

Teargas projectiles fired

This video, also filmed an Azadi Street on January 12, shows teargas projectiles being fired at a crowd of protesters. At 1’08, a canister passes close to the camera operator’s head.

The teargas video starts recording in front of a Resalat Bank branch and ends near a pedestrian bridge at the corner of Azadi Street and Jeyhoon Street.

Amateur videos documented the firing of shotguns and teargas canisters along a 1600-metre stretch of Tehran’s Azadi Street on the night of Jan. 12.

Article by Ershad Alijani and Derek Thomson