How Iranian authorities use ambulances for arrests and transporting forces

In the two weeks since the Iranian people protested the killing of Mahsa Amini in police custody, social media users repeatedly warned that security forces had used ambulances to arrest and transport protesters.

Several videos have been released showing ambulances queuing outside detention centers and police stations, or other facilities linked to the authorities in one way or another.

Some show arrested people being transported by ambulance. In one, young people pick up several others who had been arrested and were going to be transferred to the detention center by ambulance.

A photo taken by a Twitter user shows a vehicle painted to look like an ambulance with a green license plate, indicating that it belongs to the military and law enforcement.

Pro-government forces and state media reported that ambulances were set on fire, calling protesters vandals and rioters.

Health Minister Bahram Einollahi said on Tuesday that in the first 10 days of protests, 72 ambulances had been destroyed.

“The country is facing a shortage of ambulances and difficult conditions have been created,” he said.

At the same time, many social media users, including Twitter, have warned of the potential violation of international laws, calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross to prevent the practice.

Why and how does the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus use ambulances to capture the transport of its detainees – and is this a new practice?

Nasrine Takhiria journalist arrested several times, is among those who have reported on social networks that such practices are not new.

She posted on Twitter: “The use of an ambulance to suppress protests has a history. On June 20, 1981, when they caught me, they closed Taleghani Avenue from Somayeh to Shariati and surrounded the crowd “Several ambulances opened their back doors at the intersection of Shariati and Taleghani and started firing into the crowd. About 40 of us took refuge in a shop, but we were all arrested.”

Twitter users also posted an article from the Mardom-Salari newspaper in April 2019, in which Saeed Ghasemi, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), told the newspaper that during the war in Bosnia, the IRGC, under the cover of the Red Crescent and using vehicles representing that organization, gave military training to the Islamic forces of the Mujahideen and cooperated with Al-Qaeda.

Social media users suggest the interview indicates the Revolutionary Guards’ endorsement of these tactics.

Your correspondent himself witnessed an ambulance transporting detainees on February 14, 2011, the day the leaders of the Green Movement were placed under house arrest on Karoun Shomali Street, between Dampezeshki and Tous in Tehran.

“At that time, I was a master’s student and novice driver trying to pull my car out of the parking lot to drive home. I then noticed a Toyota Hiace pickup truck, imported at the time for safety reasons, just behind me.. I was confused and was looking at the car through the rear view mirror. Immediately behind this car an ambulance was trying to clear the way with its siren. At the same time someone got out of the driver’s side of the Hiace with a gun and urged me to go faster. After I stopped, the Hiace van, the ambulance behind it and a Peugeot left the scene. It was clear that there were people in the ambulance who were escorted by the security forces in these two cars.

Numerous reports have been received of the use of ambulances during the past two weeks of anti-government protests in Iran.

Hossein Ronaghi, a free speech and internet activist who was arrested a few days ago, was attacked by security forces before his arrest. He saw that the police had come by ambulance to arrest him. He was in his car and was leaving the parking lot and managed to escape.

Ronaghi explained this experience in a video he recorded during his escape, which he passed on to his journalist friend Masoud Kazemi to publish.

In a video published on the 1500tasvir Twitter pageor 1500 Images, it is clear that an ambulance escorted by security force motorcycles, sirens blaring, entered a police station in the town of Gonbad-Kavus.

The 1500tasvir account previously posted a video of ambulances queuing. The description of this video reads: “If you think this is a hospital with a row of parked ambulances, you are wrong. We live in the shadow of the Islamic Republic, and here is the IRGC barracks, and these ambulances are vehicles of repression of people protesting.”

A named user Keyvan Tohidi also posted a video in which an ambulance enters the courtyard of Sajad police station in Mashhad.

Another user named brawl king posted a short video of a person filmed from their car window standing next to an ambulance in traffic. In this ambulance are a woman wearing a police uniform and a mask, and another man who looks like a security guard. The caption for this video reads, “Suppressors Use Ambulance!”

The presence of this woman in the ambulance transporting the security forces may explain a report published by the Mehr news agency, close to the IRGC.

On September 21, Mehr revealed the presence of the first group of women from a special police unit, FARAJA, set up to deal with the protests via video. The unit commander said it was the first official mission of women cracking down on protesters.

Some users have mentioned the possibility for ambulance vans to use particular traffic lanes without attracting the attention of demonstrators. Some pointed out that these were not real ambulances but security and military vehicles that were only painted as ambulances to deceive protesters.

A user with the name Hashashin published a photo taken from the license plate of an ambulance, which shows that this vehicle has a green license plate and belongs to the military and security forces.

Others wrote sarcastically that they had learned to clear the way for ambulances, but now their confidence has been shaken by the government’s use of ambulances to suppress people. This user group refers to the issue of public trust and paves the way for ambulances that likely transport their friends and companions and take them to be tortured and imprisoned.

A named user Seta went further and highlighted the differences between real ambulances and ambulances belonging to law enforcement forces. He tweeted: “Please take this seriously and publicize it. The ambulance transporting the patients does not turn off the lights inside! It does not tint the exterior windows. It does not insult not the people! very different from the ambulance which transports the sick. Today, the municipality of Rasht was full of these ambulances.

Along with growing reports of law enforcement forces using ambulances for cover, some users have called for the issue to be addressed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which aims to protect humanitarian law during conflict. .

According to international regulations, the military use of ambulances during war is a clear example of a war crime, but it is unclear what international laws oppose this initiative of the Islamic Republic, whose public confidence in the ambulances.

Either way, the supposedly life-saving vehicle is currently being used in Iran by forces that directly shoot and kill protesters, be they children, teenagers, old or young. They are taken to detention centers where torture, insults, humiliation and inhuman conditions await them.

In tweets to the Geneva-based organization, activists sent a message in English: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is using ambulances to detain and suppress protesters. Where is the International Red Cross?

The ICRC has yet to respond to these claims by the protesting Iranian people, but it appears that documenting this issue and reporting it to human rights organizations could prevent it from happening again in the future. or, at least, carry consequences for this violation. international laws and regulations for the Iranian political system.

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