Iranian security forces have reportedly fired live ammunition and tear gas at demonstrators protesting against the Islamic Republic’s initial denial it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner.
- An online video showed crowds of demonstrators fleeing shots fired by police
- Tehran’s police chief General Hossein Rahimi denied his officers opened fire
- Crowds had been protesting against Iran’s initial denial it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner
Videos sent to the New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran and later verified by The Associated Press showed a crowd of demonstrators fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them.
The chief of police in the Iranian capital of Tehran, Hossein Rahimi, said officers are under orders to show restraint towards protesters.
He has denied police used live ammunition against demonstrators earlier this week, despite videos of the protests posted on social media in which gunshots can be heard.
People coughed while struggling to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: “They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square. Death to the dictator.”
Another video shot in the aftermath shows a woman being carried away, leaving a bloody trail.
People are seen around her crying out that she was shot in the leg with live ammunition.
Babak Taghvaee @BabakTaghvaee #BREAKING: #Khamenei has authorized his security forces to open fire at people who are protesting against #Iran’s Islamic Regime over shot-down of #PS752 by #IRGC. It is started in #AzadiStreet of #Tehran right now, Special Unit of Police shot at two women. #IranProtests
“Oh my God, she’s bleeding nonstop,” one person shouts. Another shouts: “Bandage it.”
Photos and video after the incident showed pools of blood on the footpath.
However, Tehran’s police chief General Hossein Rahimi later denied his officers opened fire.
“Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” General Rahimi told Iranian media.
“Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been the agenda of the police forces of the capital.”
However, uniformed police officers were just one arm of Iran’s security forces who were out in force for the demonstrations.
Riot police in black uniforms and helmets gathered earlier on Sunday in Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University and at other landmarks.
Revolutionary Guard members patrolled the city on motorbikes, and plainclothes security men were also out in force.
In November the guard was accused of opening fire on people protesting against government-set petrol price rises in violence that reportedly left more than 300 people dead.
Protesters mourn the dead
The crash of the Ukraine International Airlines flight early on Wednesday killed all 176 people on board, mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians.
After pointing to a technical failure and insisting for three days that the Iranian armed forces were not to blame, authorities on Saturday admitted accidentally shooting it down in the face of mounting evidence and accusations by Western leaders.
Iran downed the flight as it braced for possible American retaliation after firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing US forces earlier on Wednesday.
The missile attack, which caused no casualties, was a response to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a US airstrike in Baghdad.
Iranians have expressed anger over the downing of the plane and the misleading explanations from senior officials in the wake of the tragedy.
They are also mourning the dead, which included many young people who were studying abroad.
At earlier protests on Saturday, students in Tehran shouted: “They are lying that our enemy is America! Our enemy is right here!”
Javad Kashi, a professor of politics at Tehran Allameh University, wrote online that people should be allowed to express their anger in public protests.
“Buckled under the pressure of humiliation and being ignored, people poured into the streets with so much anger,” he wrote.
“Let them cry as much as they want.”