Iran's Anti-Riot Police Chief Says More Prepared Than Ever To Confront Protests
Maryam Sinaiee May 13, 2020
The Commander of Iran's fearsome anti-riot police on Wednesday underlined the "unique support" and equipment provided to his force by the government to prepare it more than ever for suppression of "enemy threats" in urban areas.
In an interview published by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Brigadier-General Hassan Karami who since 2012 has commanded the anti-riot police said the force under his command has received the most support for its operations in the current Iranian year.
"This year we are at the height of preparedness, from training to equipment and knowledge of the enemy threats in various areas," he added.
Officials of the Islamic Republic routinely attribute popular protests to plots by "the enemies", which in their official jargon means mainly the United States and also its regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
"The support makes our burden of responsibility even heavier. Our preparedness must be so high that it puts the enemy off making any threats and unrest in the country," the Commander of the Special Unit said. At the same time he defended the performance of the forces under his command during the urban protests of 2017 and 2018 and other missions assigned to it as "acceptable".
Since 1992 when the Special Unit was first deployed to suppress an urban upheaval in Mashhad, the awe-inspiring force has been used on seven other major occasions to quell peaceful protests including union protests in 1995, student protests in 1999 and 2003, nation-wide protests to disputed election results in 2009 and protests in December 2017- January 2018 protests.
The deployment of the units in November 2019, presumably under the direct orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to suppress nationwide protests against the government decision to triple the price of gasoline claimed hundreds of lives. It is considered the most extensive operation ever undertaken by the Special Unit and other security forces. A regime insider told Reuters at the time that Khamenei had ordered the suppression of the protests at any cost.
Despite promises, the government has never officially revealed the number of people who were shot dead or arrested during the November protests. Some have estimated the death toll of the protests to be as high as 1,500 in less than a week of protests.
The brutal assault on thousands of peaceful protesters was documented and shared by many Iranians during the unrest that engulfed the country. The number of protesters who were arrested is estimated to be eight thousand.
Commanders of the Special Unit troops always deny the use of lethal force against protesters and destruction of private and public property and attribute it to "enemies" and distortion of the truth by foreign media.
The number of Special Unit troops has never officially been announced but is estimated at tens of thousands. Special Unit operates in all of the country's 31 provinces with four of their brigades stationed in the capital Tehran alone. Allegedly, foreign fighters from countries such as Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan are often deployed by the Special Unit to suppress protests in Iran.
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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