Iranian police ‘aim to kill’ using shotguns to repress protests
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Iranian security forces have widely used shotguns to repress the protests exploding around the country. At least 20 protesters have died after being hit by shotgun blasts, according to Amnesty International. A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s militia, the Basij, told us how security forces are trained to control protests.
Shotguns are used by all units of Iran’s security forces: riot police, plainclothes police, and members of the Basij. Shotguns can indeed be used by police for crowd control: when fired at a distance using special ammunition like plastic pellets, they can be considered “less-lethal” weapons.
But that’s not how they have been used in Iran.
Mostafa (not his real name), a member of the Basij, told us more under the condition of anonymity.
We had a few hours of introductory training on "non-combat" weapons like these. We learned which weapons we are supposed to use in which situations. But our training was useless. Protests in real life have nothing to do with what we trained for. During our training courses, we were told to shoot at the ground if we are too close to the target. But no one does that in the protests. I try not to hit protesters. I shoot at the ground or in other directions to scare them and push them back. But not everyone is like me. Members of my unit aim at people to hit them, to hit them in the chest or head, to kill them.
We asked Iranians to send us pictures of the ammunition being used in protests. We received more than 100 photos and videos from 30 different protests. They showed tear gas canisters, plastic and rubber bullets, and bullets from Kalashnikov assault rifles.
>> Read more on The Observers: How Iran’s security forces are shooting to kill with ‘non-combat’ shotgun shells
They also sent us images of injuries caused by these so-called “non-combat” weapons, including bruises from rubber bullets and injuries from sprayed metal birdshot. Hundreds of Iranian protesters have been permanently blinded according to the New York Times.
At least 416 people, including 51 children, have been killed in the protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16. The protests have continued despite a violent crackdown and nationwide internet shutdowns.