by Mark Pyruz
Note: in this post, the categorization of the 13 Aban counter-demonstrations as an "unlawful assembly" is not intended in any way as a political statement. Rather it is used purely in its legal definition for which it is acted upon by Iranian law enforcement agencies.
In the few video clips and photos available from the (unlawful) Iranian counter-demonstrations of 13 Aban, Islamic Republic of Iran Police Force (IRIPF) and Basij personnel do not appear equipped with firearms. The emphasis appears to be on crowd dispersal (and in sporadic incidents, intimidation), rather than mass arrest operations. IRIPF do not engage in "caging" operations, nor do they deploy their water canon assets or rubber bullet ammunition (which are typically seen in comparative Western applications of crowd control). Below are notes accompanying uploaded video of Iranian law enforcement operations during 13 Aban:
Motorized IRIPF in action. Note "POLICE" black uniforms. One green uniformed IRIPF policeman is visible as a passenger on board a motorbike. Dispersal efforts appear to be the rule, rather than mass arrest.
Green uniformed IRIPF security detachment in antiriot gear. At approximately 2:04, the security police charge, successfully dispersing the unlawful assembly. After the demonstrators are forced back and dispersed, the security officers in this video do not appear overly aggressive, nor do arrest operations seem to be taking place.
Motorized IRIPF member outfitted in Iranian-equivalent DCU, tactical vest and conventional full-face motorcycle helmet. Female demonstrator is struck on the legs, ordered to change direction and disperse. This specific application of force (which may or may not be prescribed by IRIPF policy) appears to be inflicted as a means of corporal intimidation. Noteworthy is the fact she's not taken into custody.
At 0:22 an IRIPF first lieutenant (Sotvan yekom ستوان يكم) equipped with a baton strikes a female demonstrator in the head. Clear evidence of a breakdown in law enforcement discipline.
So far, the opposition website Mowjcamp claims that 23 people were arrested in Tehran and Rasht, which is a relatively low number for disturbances of this type. To put this into perspective, during the recent 2008 anti-G8 protest in Rostock, Germany, there were roughly 140 arrests, with 500 injured protesters and 400 injured policemen. Also, during the 2003 antiwar demonstrations in San Francisco, no less than 2,150 protesters were arrested. Admittedly, it is hard to gauge the overall proportionality of these three cases of civil disobedience.
Update: Fars and Mehr News Agency are reporting the Commander of Tehran police now states there were a total of 109 arrests, of which 43 have made bail and the rest remain detained.