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Iran Officials Handout Cash, Food To Pacify Citizens Hit By Violent Crackdown

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami salutes the crowd during a pro-government rally on central Enghelab Square in Tehran, November 25, 2019
Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Hossein Salami salutes the crowd during a pro-government rally on central Enghelab Square in Tehran, November 25, 2019

In an apparent bid to appease the people Iranian officials in late December, early January began visiting some of the cities and townships where many protesters were killed during November unrest.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) which was actively involved in the suppression has taken the lead, with IRGC commander-in-chief Hossein Salami visiting Mahshahr and Ahvaz in southern Iran some six weeks after the events.

Mahshahr was the scene of one of the biggest massacres in the crackdown. According to a special report by Reuters, " In Mahshahr county, in the strategically important Khuzestan province in southwest Iran, Revolutionary Guards in armored vehicles and tanks sought to contain the demonstrations. Even Iran’s state TV said security forces opened fire on 'rioters' hiding in the marshes."

Rights groups said they believe Mahshahr had one of the highest protest death tolls in Iran, based on what they heard from locals. "The next day when we went there, the area was full of bodies of protesters, mainly young people. The Guards did not let us take the bodies,' the local official said, estimating that 'dozens' were killed," the Reuters report added.

During his visit to Mahshahr on January 1, Salami distributed cash handouts among couples getting married, and foodstuff parcels to underprivileged families, Sepah News, an IRGC media outlet reported.

During the visit, Salami said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called for attending to the needs of underprivileged families.

Salami also promised that the IRGC will build 100 houses as well as several schools and medical centers in Mahshahr.

According to the New York Times, the Iranian security forces used heavy machinegun fire against demonstrators in Mahshahr killing between 40 to 100 protesters.

General Salami later visited Ahvaz where he attempted to appease the people in a similar way.

Despite the attempt to pacify angry Iranians who were hit in one way or another during the November crackdown, the government has still not revealed the number of those killed and imprisoned during the suppression and government bodies such as the Judiciary and the Supreme Council of National Security have been blaming each other for the delay.

The heavy-handed suppression took place during a 10-day internet blackout to curb news dissemination. However, videos published on social media and foreign-based TV channels revealed gruesome violence and scenes of protesters being shot in the head or heart at point blank.

During his visit to Mahshahr, Salami said: "We should stand united as no one else, including our enemies and the countries that pretend to be our friends can solve our problems.”

In another likely attempt to pacify the people in the areas hit by the violent crackdown, President Hassan Rouhani opened an urban railway station southwest of Tehran in Golshahr on December 31 and promised to extend the Tehran subway to the area including Shahryar township, the venue of some of the fiercest clashes between protesters and security forces.

However, many social media users including a Tehran city councilor revealed that the station project inaugurated by Rouhani had already been opened once before.

Meanwhile, the reformist councilor, Bahareh Arvin, told Fars news agency that the subway line "opened" by Rouhani is "still incomplete and not safe to use."

Other low-key officials have also been going around in southwest Tehran promising welfare to those who had been hit by the violent crackdown. Some even took part in ground-breaking ceremonies.

Radio Farda Analyst Morad Veisi wrote in a January 2 tweet that the IRGC has been part of a ground-breaking ceremony to launch the subway in Eslamshahr and Parand in southwestern Tehran.

The organization in charge of the subway is the Tehran Municipality and the project has still not been completed and the lines that had been designed in the early 1970s, years before the Islamic revolution, remain incomplete.