Following the brutal crackdown of the demonstrations over the mismanagement of water resources in Isfahan in November 2021, the commander of the Iranian regime’s anti-riot police has admitted that his forces purposely targeted protesters. The unarmed protesters were shot by pellet guns at close range, leaving over three dozen people with severe eye injuries, with some losing their eyesight completely.
In an interview published on January 9, Brigadier-General Hassan Karami stated that his forces used ‘shotguns that discharged pellets’ to quell the unrest. Karami is already sanctioned by both the United States and the European Union due to his history of using repressive acts against ‘innocent civilians, political opponents, and peaceful protesters’, and other serious human rights abuses.
During the protests in Isfahan as special forces attacked the protesters, numerous images of many pellet bullets hitting the bodies, eyes, and faces of protesters were posted on social media.
Many state-run news outlets in Iran, including the Fars News Agency, which is closely affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), published quotes from Nourrodin Soltanian, the spokesperson for the hospitals in Isfahan. Soltanian said, “40 people with eye injuries came to the hospitals. Twenty-one of those people were hospitalized, two in intensive care.”
However, the true number of people who sustained head injuries and lost their eyesight is likely to be much higher than the official figures. Many injured protesters avoided going to the hospital following the violent crackdown as they feared being arrested by security forces for taking part in the protests.
According to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), at least 100 people were wounded some 300 detained when the suppressive forces attacked the protests on November 26.
Following a week of demonstrations at the dried-up riverbed of the Zayanderoud River in Isfahan by local farmers, the largest protest over the water shortage in the region began on November 19, with large groups of supporters, from all walks of life, joining the farmers in solidarity.
In a bid to prevent the protests from spreading to other cities across Iran, the regime enlisted their security forces and the anti-riot police to crack down on the unrest, which ended in violent clashes across the city of Isfahan.
Throughout 2021, daily protests were held across Iran by people from across all social sectors of society, with each pocket of unrest further highlighting the explosive state of Iranian society. Along with the major protest in Isfahan, two other major protests took place last year, with one in Khuzestan in the southwest of the country, and in Sistan and Baluchistan in the southeast.
To maintain control, the Iranian regime has resorted to more suppression and violent crackdowns of the protests in recent months and carried out more executions. If anything, the crackdowns reflect the desperation of the ruling mullahs in dealing with a nation on the verge of revolt.