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Iran Promises Under Pressure To Reveal Casualty Toll Of November Protests

Iran-Graves belonging to pepople who died in recent protest
Iran-Graves belonging to pepople who died in recent protest

Under massive pressure from public opinion, the Iranian government has promised to reveal the number of those killed during the mid-November protests in Iran.

The Rouhani administration's spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Monday December 9, that the administration will provide a list of those killed in individual provinces as well as declaring the reasons of their deaths.

The government has never respected similar promises made after the murder of intellectuals in 1998, student unrests in1989, the post-election unrest in 2009 and the 2017 and 2018 protests.

The way Rabiei’s made his statement showed that the promise was probably not as serious as he wanted it to be taken. He claimed "more policemen have been wounded during the protests than protesters."

He also said that the reason why the number of those killed during the protests have not been revealed so far was that the Supreme National Security Council, the country's highest security authority that operates under President Hassan Rouhani, prevented giving away such information. But that is the whole questions; why the government has refused to release the death toll. For the families of victims or ordinary Iranians it matters less who is behind the delay.

Family members of those killed, as well as eye-witnesses say that most victims were shot in the head or heart from point blank, and in places such as Mahshahr in southern Iran, victims were killed using heavy machine gun fire.

So far, the largest number of confirmed deaths during the protests are 366 as announced by Kalemeh website, an opposition media outlet, while the U.S. government put the number as high as 1000.

Many calls have been made inside and outside Iran asking the government to declare the number of those killed, wounded and arrested by security forces.

In one of the most recent cases, the new EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell called on Tehran to disseminate accurate and transparent information about the casualties and arrests.

Tehran's local governor has said that 2021 protesters have been arrested just in Tehran Province. However, investigative research by Radio Farda puts the number of detainees in Iran during and after the protests at over 8000 which is closer to the head count by Iranian MP Naqavi Hosseini who has said at least 7000 have been detained.

Meanwhile, 160 Iranian lawyers wrote a letter to Rouhani on Monday demanding a thorough investigation into the violent clampdown on the protests and called for the punishment of security officers who broke the law.

They also criticized the Iranian president and other officials for reducing the legitimate anti-government protests to run-off-the mill blames such as conspiracies by foreigners.

A committee set up by the mothers of young victims asked Rouhani why CCTVs recorded what the protesters did but failed to capture the images of those who killed young protesters.

Rouhani was also criticized for saying that detainees will be confessing on the state-controlled TV. Iranian activists including some MPs have condemned the remarks, reminding him of his election campaigns in which he had pledged an end to such confessions which violate human rights.

In another development, reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeqi threatened that if the Rouhani administration fails to announce the number of casualties, members of the parliament will announce the statistics based on eye-witness reports.

Some family members of the victims have said that officials have prevented proper burial and in cases demanded money before handing over the bodies to families.

Iranian activists and world media have observed that the massacre of protesters in Iran took place while the government imposed an internet blackout for ten days to curb information dissemination.

On Tuesday, MP Fatemeh Hosseini revealed that Iranian businesses and start-ups have sustained as much as 25 trillion rials [around $200 million] of losses per day as a result of the cut-off.

According to social media users, internet connectivity has still not been totally restored and the losses continue to accrue. The government is following the idea of launching an internal intranet instead of the usual connection to the global net in a North Korean-like model.

The government has also denied reports about the possibility of restoration of connectivity of Telegarm messaging service on which many Iranian businesses rely for their daily communications and advertising. Some 40 million Iranians were using the system until it was officially cut off following the 2018 unrest, but some were still using it by circumventing the filtering.