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Iran State TV Admits Protesters Were Fired Upon, But Calls Them 'Armed Rioters'

Suppression of protesters in Marivan, Kurdistan province. November 2019

For the first time in more than two weeks, the monopolized state-run TV in Iran has aired a report on killing protesters in at least ten cities across the country.

Meanwhile, the report has also confirmed that the Islamic Republic security forces opened fire on a group of protesters in the marshlands of Mahshahr in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan.

Unnamed intelligence agents interviewed on the TV show described the victims as "rioters," accusing them of carrying firearms and other lethal weapons.

The TV program also confirmed that the security forces killed an unknown number of protesters in the township of Sadra in Shiraz, southern Iran. They were also carrying weapons, the show's guests claimed.

The recent protests broke out on Friday, November 15, after an overnight three-fold increase in gasoline prices. Hours later, the protests in more than 100 cities across the country turned into a fierce uprising against the clergy-dominated Islamic Republic.

The uprising, the deadliest of its kind in the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic, was brutally suppressed within four days by heavily armed police and security forces, as well as plainclothesmen and military.

Amnesty International says security forces killed at least 208 dead, but the real figure is much higher.

Security Forces Shot A Protestor At Point Blank Range In Gorgan
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The TV show also reported that the security forces killed "some protesters" in the city of Sirjan, in Iran's largest province, Kerman.

Radio Farda's conservative estimate shows that at least two persons were killed in Sirjan, while reports say many more lost their lives.

Nevertheless, the show did not mention the exact number of protesters who had fallen victim to the security forces' harsh reaction.

The TV program has also maintained that "several protesters," including "some" in the city of Khoramshahr, southwest Iran, were killed in "suspicious shootouts."

In a highly edited interview on the show, the police chief of Mahshahr, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) member Reza Papi claimed that armed "hostile" groups were hiding in the marshes in Mahshahr, shooting at the security forces.

Speaking to Radio Farda, a local human rights activist, Karim Dahimi, asserted that by showing such TV programs, the Islamic Republic attempts to justify opening fire on protesters by diverting people's focus to an imaginary shootout in the marshlands near Mahshahr.

"The marshland mentioned on the TV show is located at the end of the township of Chamran, in Mahshahr County," Dahimi said, adding, "Protesters chased by the security forces had taken refuge in the marshlands when they were barraged by bullets."

According to Dahimi, the security forces initially showered protesters with bullets at approximately 10:30 on November 18 and repeated their deadly assault in the evening.

Surrounded by heavily armed forces, two men tried to defend people hiding in the marshlands with AK-47s.

The security forces responded by randomly firing their machineguns into the marshlands.

On the same day, November 18, only in episode security forces killed twenty protesters were killed, Dahimi maintained. Meanwhile, The New York Times in a report cited eyewitnesses as saying that between forty to 100 protesters, most of them juveniles, lost their lives in the city of Mahshahr.

According to Dahimi, carrying guns among the Arab natives of the region is not surprising. "Tribe members in the area openly carry guns, and as a local tradition fire into the air to celebrate weddings.

Dahimi insists that the Islamic Republic security forces have never considered these natives as armed anti-regime groups.

Referring to images circulated on social media, showing tanks and heavily armed forces besieging the township of Taliqani Shahr in the same region, Dahimi asserted that the area had never experienced such a show of force.

Between 208 and 366 people have been killed, according to human rights groups and opposition groups. Some claim the number might be even higher. At least 2,000 protesters have been wounded and more than 7,000 detained by regime forces, the New York Times reported.

"The recent use of lethal force against people throughout the country is unprecedented, even for the Islamic Republic and its record of violence," Omid Memarian, deputy director for the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, told the Times