In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, demonstrators gather to protest against Iran’s weak economy, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. A wave of spontaneous protests over Iran’s weak economy swept into Tehran on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government just hours after hard-liners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment. (AP Photo)
On Sunday, Iranian security forces purportedly fired live rounds and tear gas at protestors near Tehran’s ironically named Freedom Square (Azadi Square), wounding several people. The Guardian spoke to a witness who said, “They were firing tear gas repeatedly, we couldn’t see anywhere and we were screaming. We were getting blinded. Forces were firing teargas back to back. A young girl beside me was shot in the leg. It was terrible, terrible.”
The Guardian has obtained several videos of the protest (which they could not independently verify). One showed a trail of blood on a sidewalk and a woman is heard saying, “It’s the blood of our people.” Voices are heard yelling, “Oh my God, she’s bleeding nonstop! Bandage it!”
In another clip, a male says, “I saw seven people shot. There is blood everywhere.”
At Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University, voices in the crowd yell, “They tell us the lie that it is America, but our enemy is right here. You’re our Isis.”
A Guardian reporter describes the scene in Azadi Square late Sunday.
As the sun went down, columns of security vans, including some fitted with cages, were seen heading towards Azadi Square. Several hundred protesters also made their way there, marching through subway stations and along streets, singing revolutionary anthems and chanting, “death to the dictator”.
Later footage showed floodlights illuminating teargas in the air and protesters wearing cloths across their mouths as they continued to chant anti-regime slogans. “They fired teargas in the Azadi subway station,” said a man in one clip. “No one can get out, everybody is getting suffocated.”
Reuter’s reported on a statement issued by Tehran’s police chief Hossein Rahimi which said, “At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint.” Rahimi’s message was posted to the state broadcaster’s website.
For the Iranians, this is restraint. Well aware that the eyes of the world are watching how they respond to the new demonstrations, they want to avoid a repeat of the November 2019 protests which left 1,500 protestors dead.
On Sunday, President Trump issued a warning to the Iranian government not to shoot the protestors. On Sunday night, he issued a second warning.
مشاور امنیت ملی امروز عنوان کرد كه تحریم ها و اعتراضات، ایران را«به شدت تحت فشار»قرار داده است و آنها را مجبور به مذاكره می كند.در واقع، اصلا برایم اهمیتی نداردکه آیا آنها مذاکره می کنند یا نه.این کاملاً به عهده ی خودشان است، اما سلاح هسته ای نداشته باشیدو«معترضان خود را نکشید.» https://t.co/DBGGs8QFcJ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2020
President Trump’s words of encouragement to the Iranian people are the polar opposite of President Obama’s cowardly response in 2009. Will Trump’s support make a difference? No one knows if these protests will lead to the overthrow of the Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime. However, I would argue that Trump’s attention has already made a difference. The Iranian security forces are showing restraint, which is something entirely new to them. For as long as it lasts, it’s a good thing.
(Note: Iranian journalist Heshmat Alavi provides up-to-date news and video on the protests on his Twitter page which can be viewed here.)