In early October, a few month into Iran’s anti-government protests, a Tehran resident reported seeing at the very least three protesters being shoved into an ambulance throughout a student-led demonstration. However the resident mentioned the protesters didn’t look like injured.
Across the similar time, Niki, a college pupil in Tehran, mentioned she noticed safety forces utilizing ambulances to detain protesters at an intersection.
“They grabbed folks,” she mentioned. “They put them within the ambulance, turned off the lights. There have been a number of folks within the again.” The ambulance then drove down the road, she mentioned. “I didn’t see the place they dropped off the folks, however I noticed that there have been regular folks inside, like younger women.”
Protests calling for widespread social and political change that erupted in September have led to a brutal crackdown by Iran’s safety forces, with greater than 14,000 folks arrested, in accordance with the United Nations. No less than 326 folks have been killed, in accordance with Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based NGO. The demonstrations started following the dying of Mahsa Amini, identified by her first Kurdish surname Jina, within the custody of Iran’s morality police and have been primarily led by girls.
A part of that crackdown, in accordance with witnesses and dozens of movies and pictures reviewed by The New York Occasions, has concerned using ambulances by the safety forces to infiltrate protests and detain protesters. Almost all the witnesses interviewed by the Occasions spoke on the situation of anonymity for concern of retribution from the federal government.
Such use of ambulances, which consultants say violates worldwide norms of medical impartiality, reveals the lengths to which the federal government has gone to attempt to quell the nationwide demonstrations.
“Individuals are going to be afraid to hunt well being care, which means extra folks will die,” mentioned Rohini Haar, an assistant adjunct professor on the Faculty of Public Well being at College of California, Berkeley. “Well being care has credibility due to the concept of impartiality. It’s the essential concept of ‘do no hurt,’ and misusing ambulances clearly violates that.”
Safety Forces Utilizing Ambulances
In an interview over an encrypted messaging app, a 37-year-old restaurant employee described seeing ambulances coming into college campuses throughout protests virtually every single day, and uniformed safety forces rising from them. He works close to three main universities in Tehran the place he sees day by day protests. He additionally attended different protests and mentioned he noticed safety forces utilizing ambulances there, too.
Witnesses who attended protests in Tehran spoke about seeing plainclothes law enforcement officials, referred to as Basij, forcing college students into the again of an ambulance at an illustration at Sharif College on Oct. 2.
One of many witnesses, in an interview over an encrypted messaging app, reported seeing Basij beating one of many college students, who was on the bottom and lined in bruises, with a baton earlier than shoving him into an ambulance together with one other protester and driving away.
Within the early days of the protests, demonstrators have been on the streets in Rasht, the capital metropolis of Gilan province in northern Iran.
One video, whose location was talked about by a Twitter person and independently verified by the Occasions, which appears to have been filmed from inside a automotive, reveals an ambulance on hearth, apparently after being focused by protesters. Somebody within the automotive shouts, “They’re rescuing the ladies! Come out!” because the automotive nears the ambulance.
The video reveals a person sporting what resembles the uniform of Iran’s nationwide police pressure leaving the ambulance and working away from the automobile. He’s briefly chased by a bunch of individuals earlier than escaping.
The Occasions confirmed the video to Afshon Ostovar, an affiliate professor on the Naval Postgraduate Faculty in Monterey, California, who focuses on Iranian nationwide safety.
“That positively seems like a NAJA officer,” Ostovar mentioned in an interview, utilizing the acronym for Iran’s nationwide police pressure. “He’s not a paramedic. The uniform and firearm are useless giveaways.” The firearm that Ostovar refers to may very well be within the holster clipped to the person’s again as he runs away from the ambulance within the video.
Though the video doesn’t present who torched the ambulance, one other video from a special angle reveals the identical ambulance being shoved and jostled by a crowd of individuals.
Ambulances at Police Stations
The Occasions analyzed and geolocated movies and photographs displaying ambulances coming into or exiting police stations, or positioned simply outdoors them, in at the very least six places throughout the nation (in a single case the situation was first talked about by a Twitter person).
In two of the places there are hospitals close by, in accordance with Google Maps, however the video from one among these places reveals the ambulance clearly going into the police station.
Though the movies and photographs don’t present who’s being transported, a former emergency room doctor mentioned there’s no official medical motive for ambulances to be at police stations.
“I can say with practically 100% accuracy that this by no means occurs,” mentioned Dr. Amir Alishahi Tabriz, who beforehand labored within the Loghman-e Hakim and Torfeh hospitals in Tehran in 2013. Now primarily based in the USA, he works with docs in Iran to assist their sufferers get care after being injured in protests.
“Folks don’t really feel secure to go to pressing care or hospitals. They know that forces are ready for them to seize them,” he mentioned. “When sufferers need assistance, we ship them to well being facilities in the midst of the evening.”
Outrage Amongst Iran’s Medical Employees
The usage of ambulances to detain folks has outraged Iran’s medical group. A video posted on Twitter on Oct. 4 and verified by the Occasions reveals medical staff demonstrating outdoors Razi College Hospital in Rasht, holding indicators that learn, “Basij usually are not college students,” and “Ambulances ought to be used for transporting sufferers.”
One other video posted on Twitter on Oct. 21, intentionally blurred to guard the identification of the themes, reveals an illustration that seems to be on the Mashhad Medical Society constructing. On the demonstration, a speaker reads from a press release condemning using ambulances and medical symbols by safety forces: “We wish it to cease with a purpose to achieve social belief.”
The Occasions verified that the room seen within the blurry footage matches archival footage from the Mashhad Medical Society constructing’s amphitheater.
Haar, with UC Berkeley’s Faculty of Public Well being, mentioned that work of the medical group throughout protests and civil disturbances is protected beneath worldwide human rights legislation.
“The ideas of impartiality and independence, of caring for the wounded and never misusing the medical emblem for political achieve, are universally accepted foundations on which your complete medical system depends,” she mentioned. “Medical staff have the duty to deal with the wounded and sick. And the federal government has the duty to assist us do this.”
Apart from protests in Rasht and Mashhad, different members of the medical group have voiced their considerations in regards to the misuse of ambulances. On Oct. 22, the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the licensing and regulatory physique for well being care professionals, raised considerations about using ambulances for nonmedical transport.
For a lot of in Iran, using ambulances to suppress protests provides to their mistrust within the nation’s medical system. There have been a number of studies about Iranians who’ve been injured at protests being detained after receiving medical care in hospitals.
In an interview, one Tehran protester mentioned that many individuals are likely to their accidents at residence as an alternative of going to the hospital resulting from a local weather of concern.
“We felt most insecure after we noticed police. However now we have a brand new stage of concern unlocked. Now we really feel the worst pains after we see ambulances,” mentioned one Tehran protester. “And each time we’re caught in visitors, now the dilemma is, what if there’s an actual affected person in there? Or what in the event that they’re going to kill us?”
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