The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commander described the suppression of the mid-November protests in Iran as a victory in an "all-out world war." Many dismissed the comment as an "overstatement."
Nevertheless, what happened during the four-day deadly protests in Mahshahr County, in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran, was at least reminiscent of the long and bloody war between Iran and Iraq (1980-88).
The authorities brought in tanks and heavy machine guns to suppress people who had poured into the streets to protest an overnight three-fold increase in gasoline prices.
Weeks after the showdown between the unarmed protesters and the security forces supported by the IRGC, a few eyewitnesses in Mahshahr still dare to testify about those four crucial days that kept the region sizzling.
One of the few has exclusively spoken to Radio Farda to expand on the mid-November events in Mahshahr that have been still shrouded in mystery.
Here are some extracts:
"It all began on Friday, November 15 (immediately after an overnight three-fold increase in gasoline prices was officially announced.) There were sporadic protest rallies attended by teenagers and youth aged twenty to thirty."
Initially, the protests were limited to chanting slogans against the unprecedented gasoline price hike and blocking roads, here and there.
"Soon, the roadblocks disconnected the petrochemical plants from other parts of the county to the extent that it disrupted the traffic. The security forces failed to disperse the people and end the traffic jam. The IRGC forces were called in.
Meanwhile, there were a few people among the protesters who provoked others for harsher demonstrations, by carrying weapons and riding motorbikes.
There were very few of them, and there is a consensus in Mahshahr over the fact that they were not natives of the county.
On Monday, November 18, the IRGC tanks and trucks armed with heavy machine guns roared into the region. They surrounded all the townships in the area.
A couple of minutes after their arrival, order to shoot at the protesters was issued. The security forces backed by the IRGC units started to fire into the crowd of protesters in a manner to force them to retreat to the marshes located at the extreme end of the city of Jarrahi, named as 'Chamran township' by the Islamic Republic.
However, taking refuge in the marshes did not help the protesters. The government forces chased them and started to fire into the marshlands indiscriminately.
The shootings were chaotic, even hitting homes close by. Heavy weapons, including DShKs (a Russian heavy machine gun), unsparingly barraged the people with bullets.
Nobody yet knows how many people fell victim to the attacks, but we are sure so far that at least thirty people were killed in the county.
The relatives of the victims have been warned not to speak about the death of their loved ones."
The witness' version of the events corresponds with what the U.S. State Department Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, recently disclosed.
Referring to a video received by the State Department, Hook said the IRGC forces can be seen firing on protesters who had blocked a road near the city of Mahshahr in southwest Iran. Several protesters were killed as others fled to nearby marshes.
"The IRGC tracked them down and surrounded them with machine guns mounted on trucks" and began spraying them with bullets, he said.
"Between the rounds of machinegun fire, the screams of the victims can be heard," Hook said, adding, "In this one incident alone, the regime murdered as many as 100 Iranians and possibly more. When it was over, the regime loaded the bodies into trucks."
Hook said that when families tried to recover the bodies, the IRGC demanded they pay the cost of the ammunition and extracted their promise not to hold public funerals.