Iranian security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against Tehran’s initial denial that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, online videos purported to show Monday, The Associated Press reported.
Videos sent to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran and later verified by The Associated Press show a crowd of demonstrators near Azadi, or Freedom, Square fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them. People cough and sputter while trying to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: “They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square. Death to the dictator!”
Another video shows a woman being carried away in the aftermath as a blood trail can be seen on the ground. Those around her cry out that she has been shot by live ammunition in the leg. “Oh my God, she’s bleeding nonstop!” one person shouts. Another shouts: “Bandage it!”
Photos and video after the incident show pools of blood on the sidewalk. Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, later denied his officers opened fire though the semiofficial Fars news agency said police “shot tear gas in some areas”, AP noted.
“Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” Iranian media quoted Rahimi as saying. “Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been agenda of the police forces of the capital.”
However, uniformed police officers were just one arm of Iran’s security forces who were out in force for the demonstrations.
Riot police in black uniforms and helmets gathered earlier Sunday in Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University and other landmarks. Revolutionary Guard members patrolled the city on motorbikes, and plainclothes security men were also out in force. People looked down as they walked briskly past police, apparently trying not to draw attention to themselves.
The Guard previously has been accused of opening fire on demonstrators during protests over government-set gasoline prices rising in November, violence that reportedly saw over 300 people killed.