Videos have begun emerging of Iran’s brutal crackdown on protesters after the internet was restored following a week-long government-imposed blackout.
The protests began on November 15 after a petrol price hike was announced. Demonstrations quickly grew into a wave of anti-government unrest that saw at least 100 banks and dozens of buildings torched in the worst violence since Iran put down a "Green Revolution" in 2009.
In one video, machine gun fire answers rock-throwing protesters. In others, motorcycle-riding Revolutionary Guard volunteers chase after demonstrators, while in a different location plainclothes security forces grab, beat and drag a man off the street.
Another video in Kermanshah, some 260 miles southwest of Tehran, purportedly shows security forces wearing civilian clothes and wielding nightsticks, dragging one man off by the hair of his head. The detained man falls at one point.
"Look, (the agents) wear styles like the youth," one man off-camera says, swearing at them.
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, claimed on Thursday that uprising had been contained. With the internet down, it was difficult to immediately prove otherwise.
Since the blackout was eased over the weekend, however, a flood of videos have been published on social media sites.
Iran, which has a highly developed and isolated domestic internet network, was for nearly a week completely shut off from the world.
The Iranian government can throttle or block access because there are just two principal gateways, known as exchanges, that connect the country to the global internet, and the government controls both.
While other authoritarian regimes have used the tactic to stifle dissent, Iran’s shutdown is unprecedented in its scale. Amin Sabeti, a researcher with digital security NGO Digital Impact Lab, said that no other shutdown has been implemented across such a large country, for such a length of time, and been so effective in preventing the dissemination of information.
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Citing recent shutdowns, Mr Sabeti explained: “In Kashmir, Iraq or Sudan, you could still find journalists, they could report back – for instance from the BBC. For Iran it wasn’t the case.”
On Iranian state TV, officials allege that foreign conspiracies and exile groups instigated the unrest. There is little mention of the demonstrations in any of Iran’s main newspaper.
Iran has used every opportunity to blame its protests on foreign powers.
Gen. Hossein Salami, head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, on Monday accused the US, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia of stoking the unrest. Addressing a pro-government demonstration, he warned the West: "If you cross our red line, we will destroy you… We will not leave any move unanswered."
The semi-official Fars News Agency reported that rioters had looted and burned chain stores in a number of Tehran suburbs, and that some had “received $60 for each place set on fire.”
Amnesty International last week said at least 100 have been killed, but Iran analysts said that with access to the country limited the number was likely to be conservative.
Reports have also emerged that wounded and dead protests are being removed by Iranian intelligence officers to hide the true scale of Tehran’s crackdown.
One of the videos published online over the weekend appeared to show security forces unarmed protesters in close range in the head before carrying their corpses into trucks.