Government Under Fire Over Handling Of 2019 Iran Protests
Rouhollah Jomeie, an advisor to Iran’s Interior Ministry, has said that a significant number of casualties in November 2019 unrest in Iran were “killed from close range.” His claim came in a heated debate on the social media app Clubhouse on April 22 with former reformist member of parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi over the government’s handling of the protests.
Defending the security forces, Jomeie said that 23 percent of protesters killed were shot at close range. The remark recalls statements by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Deputy Commander Ali Fadavi on November 24, 2019, that many protesters were shot in the back by unknown elements, taken to be foreign agents and provocateurs. Fadavi had earlier justified the use of lethal force with a comparison to the 1980-88 Iraq war.
A video received in November 2019 by Iran International showing security forces firing at protesters
During the Clubhouse debate Sadeghi condemned a statement he said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli had made that while France had taken months to control its protests Iran had taken just three days. The former lawmaker said this was due to the use of lethal force, while Jomeie portrayed the killing of protesters as largely a defense of public buildings and staff.
While the government has never issued an official tally of those killed and detained, non-government estimates range from 300 to 1,500 killed by security forces. The protests erupted in mid-November 2019, spreading overnight to almost every major city, when the government announced an increase in the price of gasoline amid a serious fiscal crisis and rising prices for food and other necessities.
Principlist opponents of the Rouhani government have put the onus for the killings on Rahmani-Fazli who was apparently handed the unpopular task of implementing the price rise. Ahmad Alireza Beigi, a hardliner lawmaker, on April 7 told parliament that “the hands of the interior minister are drenched with the blood of the people.”
Jomeie, however, told Clubhouse participants that many senior officials knew of the plan to raise gasoline prices, apparently contradicting claims even by President Hassan Rouhani immediately after the protests that he was not forewarned.