Revolutionary Guards insider recounts horrific atrocities during the November 2019 protests

A member of the Revolutionary Guards gave a harrowing account of atrocities committed by Iranian security forces in a testimony on the last day of the second round of hearings in the Aban Tribunal, a London-based unofficial court that is hearing from witnesses of atrocities the regime security forces committed during the November 2019 protests.

Witness 600, whose voice was altered to protect his identity, presented himself as a senior Revolutionary Guards officer from Tehran. He participated in the arrest of protesters and witnessed the brutal interrogation and torture of civilians in the detention facilities of the IRGC.

According to the officer, IRGC forces were told to be on alert one week before the regime declared the sudden hike in the price of gasoline.

“They didn’t tell us about the gasoline [price hike]. They just told us to be ready for clashes and riots. The Revolutionary Guards have been maintaining its readiness for years… But in 2019, the decisions were made with such haste that the units were caught unawares,” he said. “They didn’t want to tell us about the gasoline [prices]. They knew that if they declared to the units, they would tell their families and the news would spread, and the people would react, and they won’t be able to [carry out the price change]. This is why everything happened so fast.”

The witness confirmed that security forces opened fire on peaceful and unarmed protesters who were crying out for their most basic needs.

“In front of us, there were a group of people who weren’t armed, not even knives. They were just chanting slogans, they were upset about their livelihoods,” he said. “They knew that with the tripling of gasoline prices, the price of goods would increase six- or seven-fold, and it would be backbreaking for them. They were a bunch of hungry people who were shouting that they wanted bread. There was no violence. They had blocked the roads. They were protesting. They turned off their cars, set fire on trash bins.”

The witness also stressed that he never saw any armed person in the protests, neither did he see any report indicating that armed protesters were arrested.

As the protests intensified, regime authorities ordered the brutal suppression of the demonstrations. The security forces were given free rein to do anything to quell the protests.

“On the second or third day, the situation was extremely critical. They gave the fire-at-will order. They said anywhere you think it is necessary, open fire,” the witness said. “The forces were told that they were free to open fire, arrest, interrogate, enter homes that suspects might have fled to. There was no need for a warrant from the prosecutor’s office. Confiscate vehicles, destroy vehicles, do anything you can to quell the protests.”

He also heard from credible sources that the orders were directly given from the office of regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

“A credible source told me that the orders were given by Vahid Haghanian [from the supreme leader’s office] to shoot and show no mercy to anyone who comes to the streets. Do anything you can to stop the crisis,” he said.

The regime was in such haste to quell the protests that it didn’t even abide by its own basic protocol of firearms and ammunitions.

“The military personnel did not give any report on firearm usage or the number of bullets they had fired. They didn’t report where they used their firearms and whom they shot. It was easily overlooked,” he said. “Military can confirm that even in Iran, the army, IRGC, and State Security Force obey the same rules. When you use your gun, you must report whom you shot, where you used your firearm, and how many bullets you used. And you must return your weapon and remaining bullets to the weapons warehouse and if anything is missing, you must give a full report. In November 2019, they gave ammunitions to the forces without keeping count and they received the remaining without counting them.”

As security forces unleashed their brutality, the number of casualties and injuries mounted. And so did the number of arrested people.

“On the second and third days… they deployed the Bassij, Imam Ali Units, and Saberin Units to use full force against the protesters. I witnessed buses full of arrested protesters. There were many protesters, injured and intact, female and male, young and old. They were handed over to the detention centers of the Revolutionary Guards, especially in Takhti Street… where the IRGC has a very large detention center,” the IRGC officer said. “I witnessed interrogations, beatings, lashings. The protesters were stripped naked in the cold, in groups of 50 and 100. I don’t even think you can pack and beat animals as they did.”

According to this officer, the number of casualties and arrests is much more than any official source has so far confirmed.

“The number of arrests was much more than the people think… Around 7,000-8,000 in Tehran alone. The number of casualties that I heard from my friends—who are credible sources, people who were working on these reports and showed the reports—on the seventh or eighth day, 427 people in Khuzestan alone. In Tehran, 417 or 420. Many people in Karaj. 17 in Boumehen. And these were only bodies that were in the custody of [the armed forces]. Some people took the bodies of their loved ones and buried them without telling anyone—we didn’t account for those,” he said.

The regime forced the families of victims to remain silent and avoid confirming that their children were killed by security forces.

“The IRGC’s intelligence units did terrible things to the people. I saw three tall guys, maybe 35-40 years—they were probably Kurds—they had come to take their father. The conditions that the authorities set for them [were so harsh] that they said, ‘Just give us our father’s body. We won’t even say he was shot. We’re just going to say that he fell from the car and died.’ They promised to bury him at night in their town and don’t mention that he was shot in the protests,” the witness said. “They ordered some people to declare that their children were Basijis so it won’t become evident that they had shot civilians and so the authorities could say that Basijis had been killed [by protesters].”

Hundreds of people were ready to testify in the Aban Tribunal. In this round, the court heard the testimonies of 116 people. The witnesses, who included protesters, families of murdered civilians, hospital personnel, former prisoners, and even security and prison authorities, gave a harrowing account of how the Iranian regime brutally suppressed the largest national uprising since the 1979 revolution.

The plaintiffs and prosecutors have pressed charges against 160 regime authorities for their role in the massacre of protesters, including regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei, then-president Hassan Rouhani, then-judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief Hossein Salami, and other national and local authorities.

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