Witness name & surname: Withheld
Place testified about: Withheld
Witness’s condition: Driver of an ambulance that transported the corpses of the protesters
Type of testimony before the Tribunal: Withheld
I was an ambulance driver for a hospital, and my primary duty was transporting the deceased from the hospital to the graveyard. On Saturday, 25 Aban (16 November), I went to the hospital as usual. The number of those killed swelled in the very first hour. Guards fired live rounds at people who had only turned their vehicles off.
I saw people being shot at from a military base. The guards did not ask the protesters to go, move or stop, but started firing at them directly. I heard gunshots and gunfire. People did not shoot; they did not even have weapons. It was a very regular gathering. The protesters did not attack the guards or were not trying to enter the military base.
I saw the wounded when the police started firing. But the situation was such that the shot person could not be helped. Guards shot at people randomly. It did not matter to the guards if you were standing in front of the shop or the middle of the street. They shot at people’s feet and heads. I even saw someone who did not seem to have been shot in the head or the heart but had died from being shot with so many bullets.
That night I saw special forces guards on the street. Guards would pick up anyone who just happened to be on the road, any innocent bystander, and put them in a car, and three or four agents would gang up and beat them senseless.
On the night of 16 November, when I was on my shift duty, I went (to a hospital) to transfer a dead body to the graveyard. I saw that the security men themselves were setting banks on fire and breaking the glasses of bus stations. They damaged the cars parked in empty lanes. People were empty-handed and had just stones, while the Basij forces carried weapons and batons and attacked the people. En route, I had to pass the people and the security men. When I came close to the people and asked them to let me pass, they let me pass without any difficulty or damaging the ambulance. However, when I had to pass the Special Unit men, those men, who carried weapons in their hands and were wearing bullet-proof vests, did not let me pass and sent me through lanes and by-lanes until I arrived at the graveyard.
I carried two dead bodies to the graveyard killed on Saturday, 16 November. They were shot directly in their heads.
While I was still in the hospital, only those wounded by the bullets were brought in. The guards who had come to the hospital had occupied it. I saw that the injured were being taken from the emergency room inside the hospital.
Most of the bullets either hit the protesters’ legs or kidneys. As soon as the wounded entered the emergency room, a guard would see what was going on and whether they were in the protests or passing by. Guards wrote down the names of some of the wounded and treated some of the wounded with more severity.
Only those with bullet wounds were brought in during the few hours I was in the hospital. The wounded had to go to the hospital, and even if they were bleeding, the guards forcibly questioned them; after that, they could be transferred for the proper medical treatment. I saw that someone was on the stretcher. I think he was shot in the leg. As soon as the stretcher was out of the ambulance, guards handcuffed the injured man’s hand and locked the bracelet to the stretcher’s railing heading to the emergency room. Later, when the wounded man was given first aid in the emergency room, he was transferred to the police station.
As I was near the morgue, I saw that the dead were being brought, and there was a white sheet on them. They had been shot in the head and heart. Only hospital staff was allowed in and out. They only allowed the ambulance to go inside the hospital and deliver the deceased to the hospital. I saw maybe 20-30 bodies of those killed brought in when I was in the hospital. The hospital was full of police guards.
All those killed were shot. Guards were stationed at the morgue, and guards stood over the medical examiners to check whether ordinary people had been shot with officially issued bullets or random weapons.
I took two of the deceased to the cemetery. They had been shot, shot directly in the head. There were sheets on them, and they were bloody sheets. I asked them if deaths were natural causes, and they said no, they were shot.
There were guards in uniform and plain clothes intelligence police at the morgue. Guards were standing there where we entered the compound to deliver the dead, and when we arrived, they asked, “Are you delivering dead bodies?” Then they got into the ambulance to check the condition of the deceased. They checked the pockets and the ID card of the deceased. If something were found on them, in their pockets, they wouldn’t hand it over to the family.
There was an oppressive security atmosphere in the morgue. The doors were closed, barely allowing the ambulance to get in. Guards ensured that no car entered behind the ambulance, no one was sitting next to the ambulance driver, and no one from the shot relatives entered the morgue. Guards told us not to tell anyone.
“These people are relatives of the deceased,” guards told us. Coordinate with them. “Tell them where to go to get the body.” Then we would ask the families how they were related to the deceased. They said, for example, “I am the father of the deceased, or he was my brother.” We then sent the families to the department heads’ office. On their way out, because they knew we were the drivers, they made us promise that they would have no problems with us on the way and that we would not stop or allow certain individuals to follow our vehicles.
Guards asked us which city and cemetery we were taking the body to. Then they would contact the Ministry of Intelligence or the police station of that city. They wanted the guards of that city to know the approximate time of our arrival so that they would be in the cemetery so that the body could be delivered directly to the morgue.
It takes 3-4 days for the relatives of those killed to receive the body for burial. I had transferred one of the dead myself. It was a peculiar situation that I had not seen during the time I was working. The victim’s family wanted to move the body to another city. The father and first-degree relatives of the deceased had to go to the office to do the paperwork. There, the family promised the guards not to make any trouble for the ambulance, not to hold any ceremony, not to have a large crowd for the funeral, not to take the body home to say for a wake, and not to film or photograph.
The guards have put us ambulance drivers on alert. Hospital morgues were filling up quickly. I also transferred two or three victims under the age of 18 in those days. There were forces from the intelligence service in the cemetery morgue who removed the bullets from the bodies and collected them.
On Sunday, November 17th, there were water cannons and jeeps in the street with mesh fences in front of them. They were blasting people with such high-pressure water hoses that people were thrown. Several plainclothes agents with either handheld cameras or mobile phones were filming.
The Basijis were either on motorcycles or foot and had batons. A guard was placed at the end of each alley and was closed off. It had become martial law. I saw protesters throwing stones and guards firing tear gas and bullets. On the other side of the street, a water cannon ran in the opposite direction towards the protesters, and then the protesters fled.
That same day, a guard with a tear gas rifle stood three or four meters away from me, pointing his gun at my chest. I told myself that he would not shoot because I was dead if I was hit in the chest with tear gas. But the guard threatened and swore that “if you do not go, I will hit you.” The guards were dressed in guerrilla green. They fired tear gas and fired shots into the air. The motorcyclists were also dressed in khaki leopard-pattern outfits.