Iranian security forces may have killed more than 1,000 people since protests over a steep hike in petrol prices erupted last month, the US has claimed, urging the international community to stand united with America against the regime’s “abhorrent and unacceptable” treatment of its people.
Violent protests broke out in Iran on November 15 after the government hiked fuel prices by as much as 200 per cent.
The Iranian authorities have dismissed the high death tolls reported by foreign sources as “utter lies”, but have acknowledged that five people, four security personnel and one civilian, were killed in the unrest.
“As the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began,” State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told reporters here on Thursday.
The US has received more than 32,000 videos of protestors through a secure site and they reveal the brutality of the regime, Hook said, adding that the State Department was looking at each one of them.
Iran has given no official death toll but Amnesty International said on Monday that it had documented the deaths of at least 208 protesters, making the unrest the bloodiest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Tehran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to its opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes – the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for the protests.
Referring to some of the videos, Hook said that in Mahshahr, a city in southwest Iran, a number of Iranian demonstrators blocked a road when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) opened fire without warning, killing several people.
“Many of the protesters fled to nearby marshlands to escape.
The IRGC tracked them down and surrounded them with machine guns mounted on trucks. They then sprayed the protesters with bullets. Between the rounds of machine-gun fire, the screams of the victims can be heard,” he said.
In this one incident alone, the regime murdered as many as 100 Iranians and possibly more, he said.
“We cannot be certain because the regime blocks information. Among those murdered are at least a dozen children, including 13 and 14-year-olds,” Hook said.
When it was over, the regime loaded the bodies into trucks, he said.
“We do not yet know where these bodies were taken, but we are learning more and more about how the Iranian regime treats its own people,” he said.
The US calls for the immediate release of all protesters detained in prison, as well as all the political prisoners currently held by the regime, Hook said.
“Now is the time for all nations to stand with the Iranian people, diplomatically isolate the regime, and sanction those officials who are responsible for murdering innocent Iranians,” he said.
“There has been an overwhelming support for the Iranian people by the American people. It is clear there is a bipartisan consensus that the regime’s treatment of the Iranian people is abhorrent and unacceptable. We are unified here in the United States, and the international community likewise should be unified and support the Iranian people,” Hook said.
Thousands of Iranians have been wounded, and at least 7,000 protesters detained, many of whom have been sent to two prisons: the Great Tehran Penitentiary and Gharchak Prison, he said.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo determined these entities meet the criteria for gross human rights violations set out in CAATSA, and the State Department is submitting to Congress the names of these entities, he said.
It is also known for unbearable conditions, including regular assaults and inappropriate behaviour of prison guards towards women, chronic lack of water, unsanitary living spaces and an environment that enables rape and murder, Hook added.