Human rights groups have warned of the Iranian security forces’ growing response to demonstrations in the western province of Kurdistan.
Clips from the regional capital, Sanandaj, appear to show security forces firing weapons in residential neighborhoods and large groups of riot police moving through the city.
The city was one of the first to see demonstrations after the death of the Kurdish Mahsa Amini, 22 years old after it was in the hands of the security forces.
With reported internet outages across Iran and reports of local journalists being arrested for covering the demonstrations, information on the situation on the ground is scant.
But images from across the country are appearing online. A highly criticized video showed a police officer sexually assaulting a female protester while trying to arrest her in Tehran’s Plaza Argentina.
In the video, a voice can be heard saying, “Oh, she’s been arrested, she’s a girl. Please let her go. Why isn’t anyone going to rescue her?”
With reports of escalating tactics in the Kurdistan province, Sky News has analyzed images emerging from the region’s capital.
This video was shared on Monday by the Norway-based group Hengaw, which monitors human rights violations in the Iranian province of Kurdistan. They say that he was captured in Naysar, which is a northern suburb of Sanandaj.
Sky News has been unable to independently verify the video. Although reverse image searches of the video’s keyframes confirm that the video is recent.
In it, at least six members of the Iranian security forces can be seen firing weapons in a residential neighborhood.
The sound that occurs when reloading indicates that the weapons being fired are shotguns, according to analysts at the UK-based weapons research group, the Omega Research Foundation.
And while it’s possible they’re using rubber bullets, they say it’s more likely to be shotgun pellets.
It’s hard to make out the direction of the fire, but Hengaw says the officers in the video were shooting directly at houses.
Amnesty International has also said it has received reports of officers firing tear gas into people’s homes.
Another video shared by Hengaw last weekend shows used canisters and cartridges.
The person recording the video says that they were used to “suppress people” and ends the video by saying “death to Khameini”.
According to analysts at the Omega Research Foundation, the shell casings on the left and center are shotgun shells.
The metal canisters in the upper right would have contained CS gas, also known as tear gas.
The Omega Research Foundation says the disused cartridges in the videos are similar to ones found in other cities in Iran.
“While each requires additional verification, all evidence in combination points to the use of live fire against protesters,” he said.
But human rights groups say this is all just the tip of the iceberg.
“We are entering a delicate phase of demonstrations and clashes. The regime is increasingly using force to suppress protests. And we have seen it in Sanandaj, Kurdistan, but also in small towns in the region,” said Taimor Aliassi, United Nations Representative for Human Rights Association in Kurdistan of Iran.
“Now they are using new weapons against protesters that we haven’t seen before. [in the protests]”, he told Sky News.
Other videos from Sanandaj reportedly show chaotic scenes on the ground.
In this video, at least 14 motorcycles driven by members of the security forces circulate through the city.
Many of the bikes carry two officers, and those in the back are equipped with weapons. Gunshots can be heard throughout the video and protesters can be seen throwing rocks at officers as they pass.
Hengaw says it’s not unusual for officers to travel on motorcycles in Iran, but it’s rare to see so many together at the same time.
Other images shared by the group demonstrate the magnitude of the presence of the security forces in the city.
This video, which they say was captured on Thursday, shows a convoy made up of at least 14 vehicles including cars, motorcycles and trucks that were transporting the security forces.
Those visible appear to be wearing the uniform of Iran’s riot police.
However, Hengaw warns that in recent days there have been reports of military Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers operating in the region in police and riot gear uniforms.
Therefore, it is difficult to discern exactly which units are part of the depicted convoy.
“All kinds of security forces, both civilian and in uniform, have been moved into Sanandaj,” he told Sky News.
“We see photos taken by residents showing security forces stationed every five meters on the street. It really is quite a militarized situation.”
the Data and forensic analysis The team is a multi-functional unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism for Sky News. We collect, analyze and visualize data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analytics from satellite imagery, social media, and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling, our goal is to better explain the world and, at the same time, show how our journalism is done.