Monday, December 28, 2009

Law Enforcement on Ashura 1388 - Video & Image Analysis

by Mark Pyruz

The Islamic Republic of Iran Police Force (IRIPF, also referred to as NAJA) appeared hard pressed and even overwhelmed at times, during anti-government demonstrations held during Ashura. There were incidents reporting varying levels of protest around the country, including Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan and Mashad. However, by far the greatest confrontations took place in Tehran, and that's where nearly all the photo and video evidence has been sourced (with most of the documented action located at Vali Asr Square, Azadi Avenue and under Hafez Bridge).

At times, protesters in Tehran showed exceptionally high levels of resistance to IRIPF attempts at imposing law and order. There are a number of photos and videos showing large groups of protesters seizing the initiative, and in a number of instances taking full control of key road and city centers. There are also photos and videos showing police officers beaten by angry mobs, police equipment captured, vehicles wrecked and set ablaze, and even at least one IRIPF police station and one Basij base stormed, looted and set ablaze. Protesters engaged in opportunistic destruction of public property, while elements of the IRIPF- including its motorized SF- were at times overwhelmed and rendered ineffective.

For all the protest violence and lack of effective IRIPF control over key areas of the city, it is surprising that Iran's military wasn't activated. Instead, the IRIPF (and Basij) were left to duke it out with an ever more radicalized protest movement. In fact, while the anti-establishment movement of June 2009 may have had far greater numbers, nevertheless this comparatively smaller anti-government protest (seemingly composed predominantly of students or those of similar age) is certainly willing to take increasingly more violent and destructive measures. It does so while the IRIPF has apparently (unlike in June) been ordered to confront the protesters with less-lethal means of crowd control (no standard outfitting of firearms equipped with lethal rounds).

IRIPF anti-riot management appears to rely on preplanned defensive positions, adapting to changing conditions with radio communication and applications of motorized (motorbike) reconnaissance. Despite possession of airborne police support, it doesn’t appear the IRIPF engages in sustained air-to-ground assisted tactical management.

Politically, so far the IRIPF seems to be the public face for the government’s anti-riot response during Ashura. Iran's Deputy Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan appeared on IRINN television, to inform the Iranian public that 300 protesters had been arrested and there were several killed. Meanwhile, contrary to one of the many wild rumors propagated over Twitter of high ranking members of the government being evacuated to safety, Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad attended the Ashura ceremony at Tehran's Hosseiniyeh Imam Khomeini, seemingly unaffected at all by the disturbances occuring at other parts of the city. The Iranian leadership’s strategy appears to consciously downplay the unrest. This would explain the government’s refrain from activating the military or even declaring full or even partial martial law. Instead, it appears the IRIPF is burdened with less-lethal force (in instances where even US law enforcement would use lethal means of defending itself), in confrontations that stretch its summoned resources beyond the maximum. The other side of the government's anti-protest strategy appears to be the targeted arrest of anyone perceived capable of providing any aspect of leadership to this so far leaderless movement, or anyone suspected of being able to provide linkage to identified internal and external threats.

Videos from Ashura 1388:

Incredible video of protesters engaging police forces with rocks; then on a signal from a spontaneous leader, the mob surges forward to engage the police at close quarters.

IRIPF/SF motorized detachment, contained and trapped against a doorway by vastly superior numbers. Note how quickly fires are generated, suggesting the use of molotov cocktails, but more likely ignited by the simple use of cigarette lighters.

Another view of the same incident: fully equipped anti-riot policemen cornered, surrounded and (lacking firearms or adequate backup) subjected to stoning and multiple beatings.

IRIPF/SF First Lieutenant (Sotvan Yekom) from the same detachment, beaten and stripped of gear. Demonstrators unsuccessfully attempt to set his field jack on fire.

A bloodied IRIPF anti-riot policeman is escorted away by protesters, while a IRIPF (cadre) First Lieutenant (Sotvan Yekom), with 2-way radio in hand, feebly waves him aside.

Protesters engage a heavily outnumbered IRIPF detachment at a cross street, to be dispersed by what could be shots fired (possibly less-lethal rounds, unfortunately there is constant sound buffeting on the mobile device which produces similar sounding effects). The protesters reassemble, but are then successfully outflanked by motorized IRIPF anti-riot forces approaching from up the street.

Overturned IRIPF vehicle, set afire by demonstrators. Location: Khosh Avenue.

IRIPF police van overturned and set ablaze. There are a number of YouTube videos showing IRIPF vehicles torched and destroyed during Ashura demonstrations in Tehran.

At the end of this video, two IRIPF policemen become separated from their unit and surrounded by violent protesters, to be brutally beaten and bloodied.

IRIPF police station stormed, looted and set ablaze at Vali Asr Square. At the end of the video, a severely wounded and bloodied protester is taken away; purportedly a victim of being run over by a police vehicle.

IRIPF police van surrounded and heavily vandalized. Its officers- lacking firearms and adequate backup- are seized and beaten by the angry mob.

Street melee: IRIPF anti-riot police officers are put on the defensive and swarmed, firing tear gas in retreat.

Yet another IRIPF police vehicle set afire.

Possibly an IRIPF Bell 214 helicopter zooms overhead. It appears to be operating in a transport role, rather than any sustained effort at air-to-ground, emergency management.

IRIPF police van (a type used for transporting arrested suspects) is overturned and set ablaze.

Tehran Fire Department vehicles on emergency call, situated (perhaps immobilized) at the scene of an overturned IRIPF police van.

And yet another view of an IRIPF police van attacked and overturned.

By dusk, apparently the IRIPF had still not gained full control over the city. Note several fires burning at this Tehran intersection.

Photos from Ashura 1388:

Well equipped IRIPF/SF firing a tear gas anti-riot gun, in an attempt to disperse protesters.

Well disciplined platoon of IRIPF conscript-soldiers in a defensive phalanx formation. Note the level of aggression shown by the stone throwing protesters, and the amount of expended debris on the ground.

Another shot of IRIPF conscript-soldiers in a defensive phalanx formation, with IRIPF (cadre) officers looking on. Protesters were seen tearing out slabs of concrete from Tehran's city sidewalks and smashing it to hurl stones at security forces.

Photo of incident depicted in videos 2, 3 and 4. Motorized IRIPF/SF policemen are trapped, forcefully dismounted and surrounded; to be stoned, beaten and their motorbikes set ablaze. They are not equipped with firearms for personal defense.

Another photo of the cornered IRIPF/SF policemen. At right, an un-helmeted and bloodied First Lieutenant (Sotvan Yekom) pleads on behalf of his beleaguered motorized SF detachment. This is the same officer shown in a previous video, subsequently beaten and partially stripped by the enraged mob.

IRIPF conscript-soldiers (most likely 18-20 year olds serving out their mandatory conscription terms) overwhelmed at close quarters by violent protesters; in retreat minus various pieces of their anti-riot equipment.

An abandoned IRIPF utility vehicle stoned and set ablaze by protesters.

And another demolished IRIPF utility vehicle seen burning amidst a crowd of destructive protesters.

IRIPF conscript-soldiers engaged in a contest of stone throwing with protesters on a Tehran street.

Good view of an assembled IRIPF street position, including mixed elements of conscript-soldiers and police regulars, as well as the use of an IRIPF utility vehicle. Protesters' expended stones can be seen everywhere.

Note the protesters' captured anti-riot police helmet, the combusted contents of a metropolitan garbage bin, the use of a makeshift club and the ubiquitous throwing stone.

An IRIPF regular First Lieutenant (Sotvan Yekom) leads a group of conscript-soldiers; engaging protesters in a contest of stone throwing.

A protester attempts to pick up and repel an expending tear gas smoke cartridge.

An IRIPF/SF detachment retreating, in the face of overwhelming numbers of protesters engaged in stone throwing. Note the visible expenditure of stones ssen scattered about the street.


Anonymous said...

Dude, your pseudo-analysis and schemes DISGUST any one with a hair of moral courage left in his body. What the fuck are you saying? Why would you defend this brutal regime? Shame on you fucking regime apologist and pseudo analysts. There'll be a day you'll all be tried for treason you assholes.

Mark Pyruz said...

Anonymous: this is not intended as political advocacy or even a moral perspective. It is a brief analysis on Iran's efforts at law enforcement during Ashura- primarily in Tehran- based almost entirely on very limited sources of photographic and video evidence available over the internet.

Ordinarily I delete offensive comments containing excessive use of profanity, but in this case I'll use it as a means of further clarifying the post's intended purpose.

Anonymous said...

Thx to mark pyroz
a very realistic analyse

an angry mob and helpless police.
Iran is also the same l3th world country ike india,pakistan or maybe turkey.

Nader Uskowi said...


Thanks for the excellent analysis, as always.

The reluctance of the government to mobilize IRGC or declare martial law, at least in Tehran, is I believe part of a deliberate policy of confronting the movement through a war of attrition, hoping that in the long term the youths would loose their focus and the movement would run out of steam. Going for broke at this juncture, also would carry its own risks for the government, what if it doesn't work as intended.

The strategy, however, has failed. After nearly seven months, we have a much stronger movement, albeit leaderless. But the leaders will be created by the movement. And they will not be the type the government is arresting these days; this is not targeted arrests, this is arresting people, like Yazdi, for their past behavior, not their future potentials.

The next few months would be crucial to movement's ability to organize for the long-haul, and to government's ability to come up with a new strategy.

Let's hope the new strategy would be creating the conditions for a dialogue and eventual understanding with the opposition to find a peaceful way out of this impasse. Calling for new presidential elections with supervision mechanism acceptable to the opposition could well be the right solution for all Iranians.

Anonymous said...

yes, it was brutal reaction.

Do you have photos and video of the torture and rape of prisoners? I would appreciate your comments on those as well.

Morally, forces working for the state deserved what they got, and more.

Anonymous said...

this is the last move of mab in iran the intire opposition will be arrested and may be killed in comming days the must do exactly same like chinies police did in last 4 month ago in order to maintain the law and order in the country .they should blame in police and irgc are to soft on them the record show the mub has gaining ground aggresively that require crash intire net work from top to bottom in no mercy of all that has done some today in comming days will be the ring leader of mub such as mussavi karrobi and katami and the rest of management planner to finish them off intire net work.

Mehdi said...

In my opinion government is setting the stage for a robust crackdown.
Letting the mobs to show their true colors, to build public support for confrontation. I expect the true crackdown to be starting soon. I feel it among the ordinary religious people, the silent majority.
You will also notice a sense of worry from external coordinators of protests like BBC as they know the more violent it becomes, the government will have the upper hand.

b said...

The police in Tehran urgently needs water canons. The best non-deadly-violent way to get crowds under control and to relief enclosed troops.

Why don't they have any?

Anonymous said...

Maryam Rajavi claims to be cured of her PMS pains by watching and hearing the slogans.

She (Rajavi) claims Iranians to have give slogans in her name.


I think that was the last demo we saw in Iran.Rafsanjani pushed it too far

Anonymous said...

This rather weak analysis is one-sided and contains serious flaws.

1) Many of the government forces in anti-riot gear were not police (although on their pads it said 'police'). Their forest pattern camouflage uniforms betrayed their IRGC/Basij status. The anti-riot police units up to now have appeared dressed in black.

2) Although Mr. Pyruz claims (or even bemoans) the state forces' apprent lack of lethal weapons, he overlooks the use of side-arms by plain-clothes Basij militias. The beauty of using these units for the state is that it gives them (they wish) plausible grounds to deny responsibility for killings.

Images of Basij militia members with drawn sidearms can be seen here:

One of the well-known members of these plainclothes killers was Seyyed Ali Mousavi, a nephew of the opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The state feigns interest in finding his killers, but don't hold your breath. Let's remember that they still claim to be "investigating" the circumstances of the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan in June!

The impunity of the Basij to kill people is an established fact under the present regime.

3) The uniformed forces too were issued with lethal weapons. At the very least they deployed shotguns and even the official sources have admitted a number of casualties resulting from shots.

4) Mr. Pyruz keeps making inappropriate comparisons between the policing tactics in Iran and those in the US. Here too he choses the overlook the large force of Basij militias that have been harrassing, beating up, arresting, and killing anyone perceived to be an "enemy" with impunity. Does the US government maintain a force of hundreds of thousand paid thugs to suppress dissent, wth no accountability, IN ADDITION to its uniformed forces?

I hate to say this, but Mr. Pyruz is beginning to sound like an Iranian government stooge, seeking to blunt the unpleasant realities of dissent in Iran.

Mr. Pyruz, this is not only an issue of law enforcement. It is a question of a government that has no legitimacy, and - as such - it has no mandate to hand out even flowers to the public, let alone death and destruction.

The instances of the security forces being overpowered by the public is not due to shortage of firepower, but indicative of the courage, desperation and rage of the Iranian public which has had its fill of Mr. Ahmadinejad and the "Locum of the Hidden Imam", Mr. Khamenei. It also shows the increasingly low morale of the security forces who cannot but sense the immorality of their position and the contempt of their compatriots, friends and families.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pyruz,

Since you like to compare the "riot control" techniques of Ahmadinejad regime with those of Western countries, you might like to look at this:

If you are able to read Persian, you will see that it is "declaration of establishing suicide squads" to murder members of the opposition.

The attacks are said to be starting in 7 days.

Amazingly, they have given a web address for volunteers to sign up, to kill themselves in the process of slaughtering others in the service of the "Locum of the Hidden Imam", namely Ali Khamenei.

If you know of any Western state that encourages (or even tolerates) such tactics, please say.

Or, maybe you think that Iranians - as Third Worlders - really do not deserve anything better, and must die in order to make their votes count?

Anonymous said...

This undated photo shows two armored water cannon riot control trucks apparently shortly after arriving in Iran on their way to their destination(s):

The vehicles are based on Model HOWO 4x2 trucks made by China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Ltd. ('SINOTRUK') in Jinan City, Shandong Province, China.

This is indicative of Chinese collaboration with the ruling regime in Iran in internal suppression.

It is well known that the Iranian regime is trying to emulate China in suppressing dissent, but the situation in Iran and China are very different and, without going into detail now, any attempt at a Tiananmen Square Massacre type of 'solution' to the Iranian pro-democracy movement is doomed to failure, despite support from certain quarters in the Iranian ruling ruling circles.

Anonymous said...

In a comment that I posted at December 30, 2009 4:22 PM, I made a huge mistake which I must correct.

While referring to Basij gunmen shooting at unarmed protesters, I wrote: "One of the well-known members of these plainclothes killers was Seyyed Ali Mousavi, a nephew of the opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi."

In fact, the late Mr. Mousavi was a VICTIM of these gunmen and NOT a member. A fact that should be clear to the intelligent reader.

Apologies for the error and any offense caused.

Mark Pyruz said...

b and anon 9:09:
I've seen what appear to be Iranian water canon riot control vehicles at military parades, but haven't seen any evidence of deployment during post-election unrest. My hunch is inadequate training associated with usage, or possibly other factors related to unsuitability.

anon 4:22
In photos from previous protests, I've posted photos of IRIPF equipped with shotguns (less-lethal rounds). Haven't found any for Ashura.

For purposes of distinction, I refer to fully equipped anti-riot police in all black BDUs as IRIPF/SG, sub-designated on its popular street name. (Unfortunately, I cannot recall its formal name in persian.)

Any further clarifications or direction to additional material is appreciated.

Author: Galen Wright said...


The picture you have posted of the police in the Phalanx position isn't from Iran, it's from Honduras. You can tell by the type of camouflage, helmets and riot shields. It's being advertised across the web as Iranian though, which is unfortunate.

Anonymous 4:22
As to your first point, you mention that the IRI is dressing Basij up as police as, the proof you offer is in the military woodland camoflage they wear. But the regular police force use this as well, check out this picture from a police training exercise.

Anonymous said...

Mr Pyruz

When you comment about the alleged "restraint" of the Iranian police, please do not leave out the real brutal card being playedby the regime, namely the Basij. The images below well illustrate their extreme aggression and use of a range of weapons, from firearms to knives, machetes, pepper sprays and various improvised clubs, chains, etc.:

When you next compare the "restraint" of Iran regime's police with the brutality of the US cops, you might like to mention the unaccountable Basij thugs who kill and main with anonymity and impunity.

Anonymous said...

Mark 5:39

Thank you for the photo link.

The patch on the man's left sleeve shows the Persian word "NOPO."

This is an acronym for "Niruhay-e Vizhe Pasdar-e Velayat" (نیروهای ویژه پاسدار ولایت), translating to the "Special Forces Guards of the Leader."

According to Amir-Farshad Ebrahimi, a former Ansar-e Hezbollah who defected to the USA, NOPO are Ansar-e Hezbollah, who often appear in plainclothes (and I guess are referred to as Basij) and launch violent attacks on protesters, students and other dissidents.

So, this may explain why the forces deployed on Ashura (December 27) wore woodland pattern garments, while, in the past, the police special anti-riot units wore black.

They also seemed to have different motorcycles. The anti-riot police units had uniform trial-style motorcycles, but the new lot seemed to have the conventional types.

The fact that they were not well-trained police may also explain why they seemed less competent than the regular mounted anti-riot police and managed to be cornered and disarmed in several locations.

NOPO's specialty is attacking isolated pockets of people or attacking sleepy university students in their dorms at mid-night with extreme brutality.

Faced with a large, determined and alert crowd, they were no match and were frequently reduced to cowering in doorways and begging for mercy.

Further information about NOPO's genesis can be found here:

Alternatively, the woodland pattern kits could have been IRGC Special Forces, as depicted here. In these pictures, plainclothes NOPO members are also depicted, while 4 or 5 of them are ethusiastically clubbing a fallen unarmed man:

Author: Galen Wright said...

Anonymous 10:34

The only literature that refers to NOPO as a kind of "Praetorian Guard" are places like the NCRI, aka, the MEK. Rather, all the pictures i've seen of the NOPO indicate that they're a SWAT-type unit. In 2009, they put on quite the little demonstration during police week where they simulated a bus hijacking, and some sort of building takeover.

Here's a couple pictures from the event in Isfahan:

Also, i'd just like to emphasize that woodland BDU camouflage does not indicate IRGC/Basij or even IRIPF-SF, rather they're used frequently by regular policeman(and as one picture would indicate, policewoman in the form of a camouflaged hijab).

Anonymous said...

The phalanx picture is from the coup in Honduras.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be offline... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at could post it.


Anonymous said...


I have a question for the webmaster/admin here at

May I use part of the information from your blog post right above if I give a backlink back to this website?