Thursday, November 5, 2009

Law Enforcement on 13 Aban - Video Analysis

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.


Pedestrian said...

Pirouz, GREAT post!

I think it's a slap in the mouth (lol, I know you're too polite for that) to those who've joined the "twitter/youtube revolution" hype.

It would be good to remind people that out of the dozens of protesters who died in june, only ONE has a story. We will live our entire lives NEVER knowing how the others were killed. So this "the regime will no longer be able to hide anything b/c we have twitter" is really, really misplaced.

These videos don't account for the eyewitness stories of violence (e.g., habibolah peyman's) we heard or the arrests made. Maybe a reminder that videos can only be captured where ... well, it's safe enough to use cell phones, etc!

From a legal perspective, I'm not sure how it can be argued that the greens were "illegal" (I'm just trying to think how they would frame it) - this was a mass rally, for which a permit was obtained by the government. So them being there was legal. At the samet, so long as they weren't involved in violence, according to the iranian constitution, non-violent assembly is permitted ... so there again, they were legally allowed to be there, no?

Mark Pyruz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The number of arrests were far more that the 32 that you have stated. I don't know which Mowjcamp report you got that from or at what time. As a matter of fact, n November 4, the regime's enforcers ofter tried to push the green protesters into side-alleys where their comrades with minibuses were waiting. The usually reliable website reports that in Tehran alone over 400 arrests were likely to have been made. Here is the link:

The operation was orchestrated by the disgraced (but recently 'rehabilitated') Basij commander Naqadi, who is in fact Iraqi and adopted the name 'Naqadi' after he was settled in the Iranian town of Naqadeh when Saddam threw him out.

He was involved in the killing of students several years ago, but was brought back recently, because of his reputation as a ruthless operator.

Peiknet also reports that he arranged for a bonus of 400,000 tomans (about $400) for his Basiji enforcers, plus an additional $250 for every documented arrest. (A fat which explains why the Basij enforcers were so keenly filming a number of arrests.)

Another thing, your comment about the "loss of discipline" by the officer who knocks a woman unconscious is an amazing understatemt. The use of extreme violence is an established policy by the regime. Just look at the other officer (wearing a helmet) who kicks the guy who came to the aid of the fallen woman.

Sure, there is police brutality in the US, but in what way does it justify the mass beatings of the largely peaceful protesters?

I also object to your calling the gren protesters as "unlawful." As a matter of fact, Article 27 of Iran's constitution states "Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam."

Let it be noted that since the fake election the regime has not issued even one permit for a protest rally, and has instead tried to suppress the people's protests against the theft of their votes by issueing ever-more blood-curdling threats.

The regime, which is now in effect being run by the IRGC, seems to have almost no idea of what it is facing, and has rejected any idea of a compromise to find a way out of the impasse it has created for itself.

They are so short of allies, that they have to dig up notorious characters like Naqadi to beef up their ranks, and to bus in school-kids to fill the street in front of the former US embassy.

Mark Pyruz said...

I obtained the initial Mowjcamp arrest figure from Reuters:

Thank you for the Peiknet link. Since my posting, there are now additional claims of arrest totals, ranging anywhere between 400 and 1400. Unfortunately, as might be expected, the claims are difficult to corroborate, as is the Peiknet claim of arrest "bounties" paid to individual Basij. This I'm not disputing, I just need more to go on than this single reference which is lacking any specific sources.

I'm familiar with Commandant Nagdi. It is my understanding that he is, in fact, an ethnic Iranian of Iraq birth, who was expelled with his family when Saddam expelled all ethnic Iranians in 1980. In addition, its my understanding that Nagdi's parents were Iranian born and moved to Najaf for reasons of religious position. Do you have sources that state otherwise? If so, please provide them. (Otherwise you may be guilty of politically inspired bigotry.)

Yes, as stated previously, I'm aware of the constitutional provisions for demonstration. Like I said before, in the US this is also a source of contention when "unlawful assembly" is declared and a demonstration is dispersed or arrest operation performed by law enforcement.

The "understatement" you cite is actually a broad term applied for this type of behavior. It isn't intended in a moral, political or even legal sense.

Yes, the action of the law enforcement figure appears excessive. It is reminiscent of certain widespread reactions by law enforcement in the US to anti-establishment demonstrations that took place during the period of 1967-1972. For example, see the 1967 University of Wisconsin sit-in and the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention, just to cite two cases for which there are many more. In my home city, there were also proven incidents of this sort that took place right into the 1990's, during the antiwar demonstrations and gay rights protests. Since then, improved tactics, training and greater discipline seem to be making the difference. Realize that in the US this has been achieved over a span of several decades. Law enforcement in Iran has only had a few months experience in dealing with its anti-establishment movement- and it shows.

Anon, you obviously have an emotional stake in Iran's anti-establishment movement. I respect that. But the intended focus of the post was a (quite limited) analysis of the few youtube videos available, from a law enforcement perspective. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...


I will not split hairs about the numbers of those arrested. But, I note that you have reflected the latest official figure of 109 arrests. It should be noted that these figures are for Tehran alone, and, extrapolated for all of Iran, the figure could easily reach 400. Plus, the "officials" have a terrible track of publishing false and contradictory figures. Just follow the numbers that will be announced over the coming days and weeks.

What I do take issue with is your insistance of calling the protesters "anti-establishment."

At least if the leadership of the opposition (in the persons of Mousavi and Karroubi) are considered, then the opposition can best be described by that mature democratic concept called a 'loyal opposition.'

However, the electoral fraud and the subsequent violent clamp-down on dissent and protests, undermined this notion, which seemed too sophisticated by those who scuppered the future of the Islamic Republic in their coup d'état of June 12.

Mousavi and Karroubi were not "anti-establishment." Their establishment credentials are far greater than those of Ahmadinjad and all the minnows he has surrounded himself with put together.

The Iranian electorate went to the polls in record numbers, not with the intention of destroying the "establishment," but with desires for reforms and (at least fantasies of) a democratically-accountable government.

The truly anti-establishment Iranians simply refused to participate in the election.

But, a part of the establishment - pushed and empowered by the IRGC - decided to reject this scenario, which would have ensured the continuity of the establishment of the Islamic Republic for at least another generation.

All that is now gone.

Therefore, it is the perpetrators of the putsch who can - and should - be properly described as "anti-establishment."

There may still be a small chance to save what is left of the establishment of the Islamic Republic, if the IRGC junta speaking in its name show some sense, go back to their barracks and hand over the power to the loyal opposition that won the election.

Mark Pyruz said...

Interesting take on the term "anti-establishment".

My reason for using the term is to include reformists as well as elements of Iranian politics for which there is no current representation.

I also use it for purposes of drawing analogies to America's period of mass demonstrations, the late 1960's and early 70's, involving protest movements that were generally regarded as anti-establishment.

I don't think the term itself is as important as recognizing the existence of a sociopolitical divide, with one side inclusive of government, military and law enforcement, and the other situated in opposition.

Anonymous said...


You will notice that the regime's operatives have somehow succeeded in removing some of the video clips from YouTube that show official violence against protesters. Here is one replacement links that is still active:

These contrived removals of YouTube clips are entirely futile since the same clip is posted repeatedly.

Also, since this is a "video analysis", you might like to analyze this:

Note how the club-wielding Basij enforcers are carefully taking pictures of the two prostrate detainees (4:04 minutes into the video). Presumably to claim the promised bounties for themselves and not for those higher up who load up and eventually deliver the detainees to the detention camps. This was reported to have happened in the earlier operations and led to much dissatisfaction among the ranks.

It may be mercenary, but it beats taking their scalps as proof of "catch!"

Mark Pyruz said...

Thanks for the links. I've been able to fix one of the post's links. How do you know that IRI authorities are responsible for the withdrawn YouTube clips?

The new video clip you've provided is indeed interesting. The security detachment is mostly clad in woodland BDUs, with at least one in "utilities". You identify this squad as Basij, and the lack of IRIPF insignia seems to validate your observation. Note, they are equipped with IRIPF issue antiriot gear.

The contention of paid "bounties" is intriguing. I don't necessarily discount it, however another explanation for the video taping of the arrest could possibly relate to evidence gathering. This is a fairly widespread practice in certain applications of US law enforcement. But if we are to suppose your contention is true, I can certainly see the potential for resentment amongst the professional IRIPF. Again, if this is true, it is an interesting incentive and perk for this volunteer force, not seen in American criminal justice applications for a long time. A surviving element of that American CJ practice is the employment of paid bail enforcement agents.

Anonymous said...


The regime's operatives sometimes succeed in removing YouTube clips by posting numerous complaints about "inappropriate content."

Yes, it may seem petty and even futile to you, especially since the same clips are often posted repeatedly. But, the regime's apparatchiks must be seen to be doing something - anything - to their superiors to justify their wages.

Regarding the connection between the Basij captors taking pictures of their 'catches,' it is doubtful whether the pictures are intended for any kind of court, since there has been an almost complete lack of due legal process in the so-called "trials" of those arrested in the wake of the coup d'état. Practically, the sole source of "evidence" against all detainees has been their own "confessions."

Plus, if the pictures were for evidential purposes, then photographing a couple of kids on their knees proves nothing. A photo becomes incriminating evidence if it is taken of the culprit as he commits the offense. Otherwise, photos of these guys only proves that they were bound and forced to prostrate themselves. For all we know, the kids may have been picked up from the sidewalk as they were buying a loaf of bread.

However, what such photos DO prove is who captured them.

As for the uniforms, these were issued to Basij after the first waves of protests. In the early days, they just turned up in civilian clothes and often brought their own weapons such as clubs, chains, knives, machetes and, for the highers up, handguns.

Only after some weeks the regime issued them first with helmets and military-pattern vests and then full woodland BDUs (in Iran they are called "palangi" which translates to leopard-skin pattern).

Despite the uniforms, the regime has had great difficulties bringing Basij out on the streets in big numbers, given the theoretical 20-million strength of the force.

In effect, they have not managed more than perhaps 50,000.

They have really had to dredge for people and induce them with hard cash and sponsored pilgrimage to holy places. They were going round homes of even those who had left the Basij years ago, with offers of paid employment. Given the high unemployment rate, some were induced.

Lots were brought in from the provinces and simply did nit know their way around the streets of Tehran.

So, the bounty makes perfect sense under the present circumstances.

If someone were to carry a study, I would wager that they would find that there are more Basij members among the greens than on the streets fighting for the junta.

Anonymous said...


You will notice that the links to the YouTube clips showing the regime's enforcers beating women have been removed. Evidently, the regime feels very senstitive about these!

So, just to keep their apparatchiks earning their pays, here are fresh links to the two 'disappeared' clips:-