Witness’s name and surname: Withheld for Security Reasons
Witness’s Sex: Male
Place testified about: Withheld
Witness’s status: Police Major, Witness to firing at people
Type of testimony before the Tribunal: Withheld
I am a police Major. They issued an assignment letter for us on 14 November 2019. They sent me as a team leader together with a force of 60 officers and non-commissioned officers. On 14 November, we came to a school designated for us. We were supposed to remain there in a state of alert and take action in case of any trouble.
On 16 November at about 4:30 – 5:00 pm, they announced that the crowds had started to assemble. They ordered us to remain in the line of attack. I had warned the forces not to act beyond the orders given to them. I had convinced them to act somewhat peacefully in case of trouble and to use absolutely no weapons.
They told us that the security council will make decisions about riots. The security council consisted of the commander of the police force, the Sepah, the Governor, the Intelligence Department, and the Head of the Judiciary. Any decision made and notified by them had to be executed by us accordingly. (The security council had clearly told us that) the use of fire arms was permitted.
But I had told my forces that no one should do anything without/beyond my order. I had controlled them so that if any problem has occurred, for example if people throw pebbles, it is OK; if one of the authorities is injured it is OK. I had told the authorities that they should act peacefully and under no circumstances they should not use weapon. In the end, not even one bullet was shot by the the 60-people team that was under my order.
They issued no orders for us on 16 November. They did not allow us to leave the school at all. They said that if the Sepah and plainclothes men did not succeed in their tasks, they would use us as reinforcement and support forces.
We came to the street and stayed there from 8:00 a.m. They assigned the police forces to protect gas stations and buildings. We saw that the forces had covered their faces and roamed around the city in keffieh and plain clothes. We were in military uniforms. When the protesters saw us in military uniforms, they would shout slogans asking us to join them and to treat them peacefully. The order given to us was to protect places like the Radio & Television building, Education Department’s building, and the Governorate’s building.
It was a huge crowd. A thousand people were running, pursuing, and escaping any given moment. Sound of shots could be heard continuously. We were only observers at that moment. There were so many suppressing forces and so many men in front of buildings and rooftops that our presence was not needed at all.
The sound of shots ringing was too much on 17 November. When you put your finger on the trigger of a Kalashnikov, more than 30 shots are fired in less than 10 seconds. This sound lasts no more than 10 seconds. But when the sound of firing comes for three or four hours from various parts of the city, it means that the volume of firing is too high.
They stationed snipers on top of buildings. I mean this is how they control crowds. Snipers are first stationed on buildings facing the streets. The sniper has a wireless set and below the building there is an officer in charge. The wireless’ operator sends a message to the sniper that the crowd at that side or at the place is like this. As this is said, they have a group leader who gives the sniper certain information and orders to execute. Both the police forces and the Sepah have snipers. Both were stationed that day but personally, I did not see them firing.
When a weapon is fired on a clear day, the fire at the barrel’s opening can be seen in broad daylight- especially if the weapon is (incomprehensible), or Draganov. It has a fire. It looks like something in front of the mouth of the barrel and it is clear that the weapon is firing. But I did not see it myself.
There was a Bank Sepah there (with snipers on top of it). There were four or five snipers on top of the Governorate’s building which has four sides. There is an apartment. I saw that they made the building manager sit down and showed him a sheet indicating that they had sent a man up as a cinematographer accompanied by a sniper. Apart from these, there were two guards to protect the cinematographer and the sniper. I did not see them firing at the crowd, but it was clear that bullets had hit some doors and walls of buildings which had a piece of stone or brick broken off. Bullets could also have had hit the asphalt and ricocheted to hit the building. I saw about 10 instances where bullets had struck the buildings.
When the skirmishes intensified, a gas station was set on fire in an area which was not under my team’s protection. When the gas station was attacked, I was not there. Forces under my command were also not there. In the end, they came and requested reinforcements. One Sepahi below my rank came on the wireless and said: “I am ordering you to take your forces to such and such place where the skirmishes have intensified.” I did not follow his order. I told him I promised the people that I would treat them peacefully. They announced at that gas station that they were firing at people with Goryunov (machine gun).
I also told the people that I was with them. I told them we had not gone there to kill and slaughter.
That day, we as police forces were cursed at (by the people), we were beaten, and hit by clubs and stones. My head was hurt and bled. But the people themselves came forward and stopped such behaviour; they themselves controlled the crowd.
People were staging peaceful protests. When it all began, there were no slogans against the government; there was no stone-throwing. A number of people had come together to protest the rising price of gas. They were sitting on the street. They were the people and if you spoke to them, they would listen. If you told them not to block the road and not to sit on the footpath, they would listen to you. It was not at all like they would come and set the vehicles on fire for no reason or beat up the policemen. It is not true. God be my witness, it was not like this at all. However, when the responsibility for crowd control is given to someone who has no capability and capacity to handle it, that is what happens.
I am a policeman. There is no problem if someone hits me and breaks my head. If someone throws a stone at me, I am not supposed to quickly grab my gun and fire at him. Regretfully, the police forces had no control over themselves. They covered their head and eyes and they put on plain clothes or uniforms. No one knows which organ that uniform belongs to. It had no logo. They only carried weapons in their hands.
I had a Colt but (the forces under my command) had Kalashnikovs. Some of them had Winchester pellet guns. Some just had batons. Two or three of them had tear gas. I had told my men that they had no right to use (the weapons) even under the worst conditions; if there was any liability, I was responsible for it. The truth is that the killings were committed by a number of men in plain clothes. It was not clear whether they belonged to the Police, Sepah, Basij, or Sepah Ghods. The other forces that fired at people were the Basijis working as teachers and employees in government offices and organizations rather than the military. Presently certain persons are working as teachers and employees but they are attached to such and such organization. In time of need, they act like the reserve forces and can be summoned and used even if they must act as terrorists. They act in different departments as the eyes and ears of the security forces.
I also saw the Sepah and Special Guards, but mostly the Sepah. The Sepah forces display neither their ranks nor wear colours. Their outward appearance and clothes are terrible. They were in dress shoes and military uniforms- the camouflage ones. They kept coming and going in Sepah vehicles. The Sepah commander and the police commander roamed around together as one amalgamated team. They gave speeches to the people at certain places. The Sepah and the police had one relief unit there. They did not carry firearms. They carried shields, batons, tear gas, and Winchester pellet guns. When the protests reached its peak, the only thing they did was run away.
The Sepah Ghods wear khakhi uniforms. The Sepah Ghods forces fired shots too. I am part of the police force. If I carry a weapon and go out on an assignment for an hour and if I fire 10 shots, I am required to write minutes at the end of my assignment. But if someone is a part of the Sepah forces, he has no such requirement. If he has 200 bullets and fires all those 200 bullets, he will not be questioned.
My police force colleagues used firearms and cold weapons. I heard that they used firearms. They fired in the air and fired tear gas as well. They did it with the intention of dispersing the crowd. If the police fired one shot, the Sepah killed 100 persons. They would say that this one police bullet killed hundred persons. I say that when the minutes of firing shots were prepared at the end and the protests lasted one week and there were 500-600 policemen in the city, less than 300 fires were shot. Our 60 people team did not fire even one shot.
I saw 15 dead bodies in the street on 18 November. The statistics are contradictory. There were deaths on other days too. Accurate statistics are not given. I saw an injured person whom (a protester) put on his shoulders and carried away. They did not take (the injured) to the hospital because they knew that if the injured person goes to hospital and stays there until the next day, they (the government forces) would come to the hospital and take down his particulars. Many of the injured persons were not taken to the medical facilities. They were taken to their homes or to other places where they could be given medical help.
We were on the street, but it was calm. Everyone in the city was scared and frightened. If there were any crowds, they would be controlled immediately. There were sporadic assemblies.
There were assemblies on other days too. There were groups who reported that 50-60 persons had assembled. Only slogans were shouted on the other days. Security men were posted on rooftops of buildings engaged in filming the people. They controlled the people with their cameras. On a street no longer than 1000 meters from the beginning to the end, two men with cameras were posted on top of every building and they controlled their surroundings. What they could not do with their weapons, their cameras did for them.
It was March 2020. I was at my place of service. They came there, showed me a letter, and said that according to this order issued by the military prosecutor’s office, I was under arrest. They arrested me and took me away. Their ground for my arrest was the fact that, according to them, I had not authorized the forces to act. I was not diligent in carrying out my duty because of my cooperation with the (political) groups and sympathy with the adversaries.
They said that according to the minutes, the route was under my charge. They mentioned case by case that I was responsible for protecting the Governorate, gas station, etc. But that gas station was not in the area of my jurisdiction. As they said, they had handed it over to the Sepah men and the Sepah was responsible for it.
After that, they sent me to court for trial and handed me over to the Sepah. I was in a solitary cell of Sepah’s Intelligence Department in Tehran and remained few months without any interrogation or questioning. Then, a show trial was held at the military prosecutor’s office in Tehran. The judge was the head of security of the prosecutor’s office and the head of Bench. Without any questions whatsoever they prolonged the proceeding telling me that I did this or that, cooperated with the political groups, and did not do what I was supposed to do. At any rate, they handed out a sentence of five years of simple imprisonment.