A Report by Siyavash Shahabi from Tehran
27 December 2009, Tehran
Around 11.20am furious crowds opened their way toward College Bridge through southern alleys of Enqelab Street. People had already been involved in fighting against the Special Force motor-bikers; in response to continuous use of tear gas by Special Forces people burned the trash bins and blocked the roads. Consequently, people took over the control of the alleys. These were the people that had been barbarically attacked by Special Forces and paramilitary groups (Basij) around Vali-e Asr Junction. Basij forces attacked people using batons, wooden sticks, blades, metal chains, and stones and would fiercely beat anybody they would capture. However, in the alleys around Daneshjou Park motor-bikers and Basij forces could not advance because people attacked them using stones. Young protestors gathered the trash bins from cross streets and brought them to the entrance of the bridge.
People started banging on bins like drums; the drum-like sound had filled the air. A short while later people took the bins to the middle of the street and put them on fire. A Jeep of the police forces was attacked by the people; protestors smashed the windows of the Jeep. From 11.10am on the district was practically under people’s control.
The crowds were chanting “Down with Dictator,” “Down with Khamanei,” “Down with Tyrant, Be it a Monarch or a Supreme Leader,” “Down with Islamic Republic,” “All these Crowds are on the Streets Against the Supreme Leader”…
The first attack of Special Force motor-bikers from the bridge was responded massively by people throwing stones on the forces; Special Forces were pushed to retreat. The crowd under the bridge was in perfect control of the situation and could prevent the forces from advancing. The crowd under the bridge was way larger than the crowd close to the entrance of the bridge toward Vali-e Asr (west) Junction. People tried to block the way using cement blocks, metal side-railings of the bridge, and the railings of the BRT (transit way) line; they led the automobiles toward Enqelab Square (westbound) to prevent Special Force motor-bikers from advancing toward Vali-e Asr Junction. Special Forces and fascist Basij could not advance beyond Vali-e Asr. They were also under people’s widespread attacks from the west side. Special Forces tried to attack the crowds a number of times but they were retreated each time. After we learned that Special Forces were being attacked from west side we realized they were not attacking us (on the east side) but they were escaping the people’s attacks from the west.
During one of the attacks a young man were shot by a Basij militia who was trapped on the bridge; unfortunately, he lost his life. Some women took off their scarves to bandage the wounded but it was too late. They raised their bloody scarves and chanted “Down with Khamanei” while weeping. I do not have the precise number of those who lost their lives but I saw three instances of Basij shooting people: two caused death and one wounded a person. Angry people attacked the Basij Forces and beat them fiercely. I think a person was thrown off the bridge in this clash. I am not sure about this incident, but I know Basij Forces on the bridge were attacked severely by the people.
In the meantime, some Basij and Intelligence members were identified within the crowd; some of them were busy photographing and filming people’s faces. They were also fiercely beaten by people; their apparatuses such as professional photography and filming cameras and walkie-talkies were confiscated by people and thrown into the fire. A photographer was shouting “I am green” but then he was asked why he took pictures of people’s faces. He tried to escape but he was fiercely beaten by the people. Another person who was carrying a radio transmitter and who tried to protect the photographer claimed to be “green” too but he was also beaten by the crowds; his transmitted was also confiscated and thrown into the fire. The two could escape later after severely beaten. As soon as a Basij or Intelligence member was identified, he would be attacked by people, beaten and then released. I tried to save one of these guys from the people but I was beaten myself. People would not accept the idea that someone would protect these guys. A middle-aged woman who wiped my face and head told “these dishonored guys are not human beings; you should not protect them!”
Angry crowds outraged by the death of the young man started to throw stones toward the Special Forces under the bridge. People’s attack was so fierce that the Special Forces could not react to it. They retreated toward our side but they were encircled and attacked from our side too. One Special Forces member was captured by people; the attack was so quick that other members of the force could not save him. People beat him fiercely and set his motor-bike on fire. He was later let go while he was bleeding and wounded on his head. People were chanting “Down with Khamanei,” “Down with Islamic Republic,” “Independent, Freedom, Iranian Republic,” “Freedom, Freedom.” Some thirty members of the Special Forces retreated toward Saderat Bank, Hafez Branch with their motor-bikes and were encircled there. A few meters away people smashed bank windows and were chanting against the regime. People were throwing stones toward Special Forces from both sides and from the top of the bridge. The air was filled with sounds of “Down with Khamanaie,” “Down with Islamic Republic,” “All these Crowds are on the Streets against the Supreme Leader,” “Down with Islamic Bandits,” the cries of the youths, the smoke of burning plastic and tear gas. Together with some of the frontmost young people we ordered the guards to disarm. We warned the guards that if they would not give up their arms they would be killed; we took their batons, bullet-proof vests, helmets, backpacks and other apparatuses they were carrying and threw them among the crowd. Some of the guards begged us not to take their helmets as people would smash their heads; we responded those who kick the young people with their boots, hitting them by their motor-bikes, and breaking their arms and shoulders with their batons and sticks do not deserve anything better.
Link of one of the films about this moment.
We found 20 “on-scene arrest forms” in one of the backpacks and passed some of them to the people. These forms were labelled as “Forms of on-scene arrest of agents responsible for social unrest.” The forms contain identity of the detainee, detainee’s situation when arrested (this is the type of conviction such as throwing stone, chanting, clapping and whistling, blocking the road, etc.), personal belongings such as mobile phone, camera, explanation about the officer in charge of arrest, and his signature. On the lower left corner of the form, in a fainter color, it reads “Vice-presidency of the Intelligence of the Operations of the Second Unit.”
On the back page, there is another form that contains details about “Western Tehran Guide.” It has the title “Order publishing advertisement in Western Tehran Guidebook (Summer Special Issue)” and it contains this address on the top right corner: Shahid Chamran Highway, Modiriyat Bridge, Blvd. Farhang, No. 11, Tel. 20 61 056. The serial number of the particular form that I have is 1621. No doubt that this company is one of the many belonging to Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran).
While people were throwing stones toward Special Forces they set their motor-bikes on fire. Within a few seconds all the bikes and buildings close by were on fire. People would buzz the doors and would ask the residents of the nearby buildings to come out due to fire. But thanks to the shape and material of the buildings no building was burned. The guards broke the door of a building where they had taken refuge and escaped inside from the fire. If they had not done this and could not escape they would burn in fire.
I personally do not either approve or support such an act (killing people) under any circumstances. However, it is important to maintain a point: some time ago, Asqar Karimi, in New Channel TV, during a live program called upon police and militia forces of the Islamic regime to side with the people and told that there would come a time when they would beg the Worker-communist Party to stop people from killing them since the WPI is opposed to executions. Such a thing happened on December 27. When I was in the frontmost and confiscating the armament of the police forces, they were begging us to stop people from killing them. But who could stop the deep hatred and anger of the people? Some of those in the frontmost line asked the people to stop throwing stones; they suggested capturing guards, taking their photographs and recording their identities. The fear the Special Forces were experiencing was beautiful in the eye of the people. Nobody was happy for use of violence against them. People were happy because they could see that a number of those who are fully armed with the most advanced oppressive apparatuses who would attack anybody regardless of their age were now begging them to spare their lives. People were swearing at these guys and chanting “Seyyed Ali where are your soldiers?” and “This is the fate of those who kill the youth!” This is the message that people relayed to the entirety of oppressive machinery of the Islamic regime.
Three to four Basij militias attacked the people from under the bridge and started shooting with their handguns. Two more people were injured. People started throwing stones on them; the Basij militia could escape since they continued shooting. The Basij militia shot randomly; one of the bullets hit a young man’s back. Most probably the bullet hit his spine because he said he couldn’t feel his feet. I could clearly see that the bullet had entered his back toward his spine and the backbones. Three people immediately took him away from the clash scene with a motor-bike.
As the Special Forces and Basij militia attacked again people retreated toward under the bridge and cross streets. This gave the Special Forces that had been trapped in a bank the opportunity to escape. As the trapped forces escaped and the Special Forces started a new attack on people, protestors retaliated by throwing stones; the forces started shooting on people in response. People were clapping and laughing and joking that “our prisoners fled.” The streets were under people’s control once again. However, as the guards and militia kept shooting fiercely people had to retreat and the forces took the control of the bridge. Firefighters immediately opened the way and extinguish the burning motor-bikes.
At 12.30, I and several others went toward Vali-e Asr Street using the cross streets and joined the people there. We were very tired and did not have the power to advance further. The guards and militia attacked people and were shooting at them. A young man named Morteza was hit in his chest; we helped him out of the clash scene into a building. After a while Morteza got better; it was calmer outside; we proceeded toward Vali-e Asr Square and from there toward Felestin Square. From there we started going back toward Hafez Bridge. Special Forces had taken complete control of the neighborhood; no anti-regime slogans, fire and smoke was in the air.
We returned toward Enqelab Square; lots of people were on the streets. Basij hooligans were on the streets and chanted “Hezbollah, Mashallah!” People were laughing at what they called the defeat march of Basij. There were fierce debates among people. Everybody spoke their view and analysis. A number of times I heard people talked about the presence and role of communists in today’s protests and that communists should assume a more central role. Fierce political debates took place on the sidewalks.
We kept advancing toward Azadi Square. Basij militia and Special Forces were present at all junctions and swore at people. We saw lots of forces close by the main building of traffic police of Greater Tehran headquarters. We were surprised seeing so many guards there but as we got closer we saw the trace of people’s attacks on the building and then we realized the extent of the events today. People had attacked the headquarters from two sides. The windows of a bank by the headquarters and the entrance of the building were smashed by stones. On the streets, two automobiles, one of them belonging to police forces, had been set on fire. People had got into more intense clashes with police forces here. The yard of the headquarters was full of Special Forces members. A little further down members of the Leader’s Special Guard’s were all over the place on their motor-bike wearing chemical war masks. They were maneuvering and intimidating people and swearing at them; they were asking people to leave the streets.
As we got closer to Azadi Underpass cars started honking continuously. One officer kicked a car and took the plate off; passengers started fighting with him fiercely; the Basij militia intervened, prevented further clashes and started beating everybody. A female passenger of the car fought hard and got the plate back. The officer tried all he could to push back the woman by punching her, kicking her, swearing at her but the woman eventually got the plate back. The people who surrounded them started clapping and applauding the woman; this made the officer even angrier; he started swearing at people and chanting against them but even the Basij militia didn’t support him. As he started chanting “Down with Monafeq” people started laughing at him; he got angrier but there was nothing he could do. The sidewalks on the two sides of Azadi Street were full of people who tried to cover the demonstration passage from Emam Hossein Square to Azadi Square in their own manner. People cheerfully and openly talked about the role they had taken that day in the clashes right in front of the angry and bewildered Basij militia and Special Forces and would recite the events they had witnessed or heard about. The sound of laughter and cheer of young boys and girls had filled the air of Ashura!
Translated by Siyaves Azeri