At least since the beginning of October reports have been arriving from Iran that the security forces are using ambulances to disguise themselves amid the great protests against the authoritarian and theocratic regime that governs the country: they pretend to bring relief, instead they withdraw with the girls and boys who participate in the demonstrations are forced to lock them inside to beat them and take them elsewhere, it is not clear where.
The protests have been going on since the news of the death in a re-education center of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested in Tehran for wearing the Islamic veil incorrectly, had spread in mid-September. Over the weeks, however, they have spread to become a broad and transversal movement, which the police and other military bodies – including the Revolutionary Guards – are repressing with violence.
The United Nations they estimated that in the first month and a half of the demonstrations at least 14,000 people were arrested, and according to the NGO Iran Human Rights, based in Norway, at least 326 were killed: it seems that part of this repression has so far been carried out with the use of ambulances, a practice which would violate international standards on the impartial provision of medical care.
The basic idea of these rules is that everyone should be guaranteed help, regardless of the situation. In this way, however, protesters in Iran fear and avoid ambulances and health care, an attitude that could worsen the condition of injured people and lead to further deaths.
In addition to the many testimonials that have been provided, recently the New York Times collected and verified a dozen videos in which this strategy used by the police to infiltrate the protests would be more clearly shown.
Whatch❗This report/video from @nytimes shows how Iran’s security forces use ambulances to infiltrate demonstrations and detain protesters.#MahsaAmini#مهسا_امینی https://t.co/qyvI1SteJzpic.twitter.com/FRwfkLcQyn
— Mitra🎗️ (@mitrabahri) November 25, 2022
In one of the videos (the third in the collection above), we see a partially burned ambulance from which a man appears to be wearing the uniform of the Iranian national police suddenly exits. A university professor expert on the Iranian security forces confirmed al New York Times the origin of clothing.
Another video from a different angle (the first) instead shows the protesters targeting that same ambulance, pushing and shaking it as if to make it overturn: a sign that the protesters are now well aware of the use that the Iranian police forces make of ambulances .
Many Iranians, both those who participated most actively in the protests and others, said they regularly see ambulances entering university campuses during the demonstrations: each time uniformed security forces come out and then attack the protesters. Others said they lost track of people being force-loaded into ambulances and taken away. Several other videos show ambulances entering or leaving police stations, or positioned just outside them.
In general, people who protest, even when they are seriously injured following clashes with the police, try in every way to avoid going to hospitals or emergency rooms: there are also several testimonials of Iranians arrested immediately after receiving medical treatment in hospitals. Doctors, who often side with protesters, are advising protesters to report to hospitals at night, when checks are more relaxed.
In a hospital in the Caspian Sea city of Rasht in northern Iran, dozens of doctors and local workers gathered to protest the use of ambulances in the crackdown on protests (see the last video of the review here above): they were holding placards that read ‘ambulances should be used to transport patients’.