The New York Times
The New York Times 2 Dec 2019

What Iran Did Not Want You To See


In the wake of an internet shutdown, one human rights researcher sifts through video evidence of atrocities.

Parts of Iran are back online, and videos suppressed by the nation's internet shutdown are starting to trickle onto social media. In the Video Op-Ed above, Raha Bahreini sheds light on the eye-opening stories that Iran's government did not want you to see.

While internet service has been partly restored, many Iranians still do not have internet access on mobile phones, and government officials there have warned that connectivity may be blocked indefinitely. In a call for evidence of government repression during the blackout, the United States State Department says it has received almost 20,000 messages, videos and photographs.

A hike in fuel prices sparked protests across Iran. Ms. Bahreini exposes and analyzes footage of human rights abuses by Iranian security forces, including shootings into crowds of unarmed protesters. And she warns of what may come next — incarceration, torture and forced confessions that will further oppress the Iranian people. If the world does not take a stand, Ms. Bahreini fears, Iran's internet blackout may foreshadow the nation's darkest days.

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… show captions ↓
It’s really shocking.
You see the security forces who are just shooting.
The protests were triggered
by a massive rise in the fuel price.
And within hours of the protests
starting, the authorities resorted
to the use of firearms to crush down these voices.
The Iranian authorities shut down the internet.
It happened extremely quickly. Between 24 hours people
were no longer online and seeing our messages.
However, many people courageously
sent these videos.
And as the internet has been restored slowly
Amnesty International has been able to look in
to dozens of videos that have emerged. The Iranian
authorities have a history of using excessive force
against peaceful protesters.
What we’ve seen this time though is an unprecedented use
of lethal force against unarmed protesters.
Now I can show you some of the footage
that the Iranian authorities clearly did not
want the world to see.
This is a video from Tehran that emerged
on 17th November onwards.
It is this moment, especially that
shows security forces shooting directly
at the people at the end of the street.
This is what shows us that the authorities have
been unlawfully using firearms
against unarmed protesters.
This sign on the building indicates
that this building belongs to the Department of Justice.
The people on the rooftop who
are shooting into crowds of people are wearing uniforms
which indicates that they are from security forces.
Based on our research,
the majority of the deaths have resulted almost entirely
from the use of firearms.
If I pause here, you can see a man who holds a gun
and is shooting at the protesters
he’s not wearing a uniform and people who
are not familiar may mistakenly
think that he’s a protester. But he is a plain clothes
official. And you can gather this information
because as you can see, all the security
forces are standing on this side of the street.
So in general, it doesn’t seem that the authorities
want to hide the identities of these people.
And that adds an additional layer of illegality
to the situation.
This is the footage from the city
of Shiraz in Fars Province.
You clearly hear people chanting slogans
against the current supreme leader.
While the protests were
triggered by the sudden rise in fuel prices,
they have expanded to include grievances
against political repression and
political authoritarianism.
Many protesters have certainly suffered from injuries caused
by beatings. People who have been injured
are not going to the hospitals
because they are afraid that they will be
arrested by the authorities.
There is at least one report that the intelligence
authorities have forced the management of a hospital
to submit to them the list of newly admitted patients.
There are also some horrific reports
that we are still investigating
that the authorities are forcing the families to pay
in order to receive the bodies of their loved one.
In some cases, families have been told that they need
to pay for the price of the bullet that was used
to kill their loved one.
If these reports are true,
this is an additional layer of cruelty
against families who’ve already suffered unspeakably.
On 20th November the forced confessions of one woman who
had been reportedly arrested was aired on state T.V.
We can expect that in the coming days or weeks
there will be a wave of televised confessions
that have been extracted under torture and other
ill treatment.
This pattern of unlawful killing
will continue unless the Iranian authorities
are held to account.
And for that to happen,
it’s essential that international experts
from the U.N. are allowed to enter their country, interview
the families of those killed,
visit detention centers and hospitals and cemeteries
and build a fair picture of the horrific events that
took place in the country.

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