Witness’s name and surname: Mohsen Baraghdan
Place testified about: Bushahr
Witness’s condition: Has knowledge of the security council’s decision to suppress the protesters
Type of testimony before the Tribunal: Public
16 November, I believe people started their protests on 16 November against the rising price of gas. Those protests took place in front of the Governorate of Bushahr. After a short while, the anti-riot forces put down the protests based on the decision of the province’s Security Council, made at the Governorate of Bushahr.
That meeting was attended by (Abdolkarim) Garavand- the Governor of Bushahr, Abbas Barzgarzadeh- the deputy governor, (Mehrdad) Sotoudeh- the Governorate’s deputy director for development, Saeed Zarrinfar- the deputy director for economy and a former interrogator of the Intelligence Department, (Majid) Khorshidi- the political deputy director of the Governorate, the then chief of Police of Bushahr, and a number of others from the Intelligence Department.
When a meeting of the Security Council is held, all security officers of the province participate in it. However, it is presided by the Governor or one of his senior deputies. The Governor was not in Bushahr at that time. Sotoudeh is a close friend of the Governor and handles all issues of the province. The Governor is head of the Social Security Organization of Iran and a close friend of Mr. Rouhani (the former President). Obviously, full authorities were delegated to him from Tehran to handle the protests.
At that meeting, the Bushehr Security Council decided to confront the protesters. They decided that a special counter-insurgency unit would take control and severely suppress the demonstrations and prevent them from spreading further. This information came to me from people with whom I have contacts in Bushehr and who have a post. These people are important figures in the province, and they usually find out about the meeting through their friends.
As far as we were informed, several forces were brought in from outside the province. All the (anti-riot forces) had covered their faces. The anti-riot forces, initially, tried to disperse the people by using water cannons. After that, they started firing plastic bullets. Firing took place precisely within the limits of the Governorate at Sangi Avenue, Imam Square. The bullets that were fired injured several protesters. Some of them were injured seriously and transferred to the hospital. No news is available about those who were injured. A couple of people who contacted the media outlets, were threatened, and told that if they contacted us the files of their children would be upgraded to include serious charges. Most of these people have preferred not to cooperate, hoping that they might be able to protect the files of their children by not coming out in the open.
We had some film footage from 15 and 16 November from all over the province showing how the anti-riot forces dealt with the people. As far as I know, the entire province was involved. I remember that the films, photographs, and verbal accounts given to us suggest that the people started their protests by lighting fires and blocking the main roads. Due to nuclear, gas, and oil issues, the government is very sensitive about Bushahr. They decided to nip the protests in the bud. Therefore, they did not hesitate and, as far as I know, gave full authority to the Special Unit and the police to deal with the people as they deemed fit.
Luckily, no one was killed but a lot of people were injured. We can say that in Bushahr itself, according to photographs and films given to us, five people were injured. (Plastic bullets) were used but I do not know whether the order to fire bullets was given. I have not heard that (assault bullets) were fired. (The protesters were injured) by target practice bullets, plastic bullets, and batons. However, what happened to those people we do not know yet. Except, one person who said, “They have arrested my son who is over 20 years old. They are going to issue a prison sentence for him. However, they have said that if we cooperate with them, they will have nothing to do with us.” Regretfully, no further contacts (to us) have been made by anyone because they are frightened. There is a lot of suffocation. They prefer to remain silent. They think that if they complain, the situation would worsen.