Iranian authorities on Wednesday ordered an investigation into a video showing officers savagely beating a protester that rights groups say exposed the brutality of the police crackdown on protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
Iran has been rocked by more than six weeks of protests following the death of Amini who was arrested by the notorious vice squad in Tehran, with the move now seen as the biggest challenge to Iran’s leaders. the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
Activists say dozens have been killed and thousands arrested in a crackdown by security forces who have been accused of shooting protesters at close range, bludgeoning them with batons and other abuses.
A video that emerged on social media on Tuesday evening, shot on a cellphone at night supposedly in a neighborhood in Tehran, showed a team of a dozen police officers in an alley kicking and beating a man with their batons, while other policemen on motorcycles looked on. on.
The man first tried to cover his head with his hands, before a shot was heard and he was knocked down by a police motorbike. His motionless body is then abandoned.
“This shocking video sent from Tehran is another horrifying reminder that the cruelty of Iranian security forces knows no bounds,” Amnesty International said.
“In the midst of a crisis of impunity, they have carte blanche to brutally strike and shoot protesters,” he added, calling on the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently investigate on these crimes”.
Iranian police said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency that an order had been issued to “investigate the exact time and place of the incident and identify the culprits”.
“Police absolutely do not condone violent and unconventional behavior and will deal with offenders in accordance with the rules,” the statement added.
According to an updated toll released Wednesday by the Norwegian-based Iranian human rights NGO, 176 people have been killed in the crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death.
Another 101 people lost their lives in a separate wave of protests in Zahedan, in the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan.
IHR warned that these numbers are a minimum, with information slow to arrive due to internet disruptions by authorities.
Thousands of people have been arrested across the country in the crackdown on protests, rights activists say, while Iran’s justice system says 1,000 people have already been charged in connection with the protests. what he describes as “riots”.
The trial of five men charged with capital offenses for the protests opened in Tehran on Saturday.
“Instead of accepting the legal demands of the people, the Islamic Republic is cracking down with repressive measures and show trials,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.
“Charges and penalties have no legal validity and their only purpose is to commit more violence and create fear in society,” he added.
According to family members, Amini’s death was caused by a blow to the head while in police custody. Iranian authorities disputed this explanation and later denied it in an official medical report.
The protests were fueled by anger over the strict Islamic dress code for women in Iran – which the police who arrested Amini were enforcing – but have become a rallying point for popular anger against the regime that has ruled Iran since the end of the war. fall of the shah. in 1979.
While there have been outbursts of protests in Iran over the past two decades, the current movement has steadily broken taboos, united social classes and spread widely across the country.
The challenge to the regime is compounded by the custom in Iran of marking 40 days since a person’s death, turning every 40-day “chehelom” mourning ceremony for the dozens killed in the crackdown into a flashpoint. potential for protest.
“Funerals and 40-day memorial ceremonies for slain protesters are increasingly the source of new unrest,” said Kita Fitzpatrick, Iran analyst at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project.
“This places the regime in a bind: it runs the risk of inadvertently supporting the protest movement by attempting to suppress it violently.”