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Iran: How we are uncovering the protests and crackdowns

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    1 day ago

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A woman dragged away by female special forces. Security forces shooting from a pick-up truck. Detained protesters being bussed away. Men ducking for cover from gunfire.

These are some of the shocking incidents seen in videos shared by people inside Iran over the past day whose authenticity BBC journalists have been able to verify.

The BBC and independent media are not allowed to report from Iran, so such videos are crucial to establishing what is happening on the ground.

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Iranian authorities have been disrupting the internet service in order to limit the flow of information and control the narrative, but Iranians are still sending BBC Persian videos of protests happening across the country via messaging apps. Videos are also being posted frequently on social media.

Before a video can be used in any reports, journalists need to establish where and when it was filmed.

They can pinpoint the location by looking for landmarks and signs in the footage and checking them against satellite images, street-level photos and previous footage. Weather reports, the position of the sun and the angles of shadows it creates can be used to confirm the timing.

On Friday, BBC Persian journalists, investigative journalists from the BBC News Reality Check and User Generated Content (UGC) teams and video journalists sat down together to verify the footage coming in.

Overnight, BBC Persian posted a video on Twitter in which security personnel guarding a building appear to open fire when protesters approach.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

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Muzzle flashes are seen coming from a rifle being pointed by one of the officers towards the crowd, as shots ring out. A man filming the video can also be heard saying that he is in the eastern city of Neyshabur.

After looking at satellite images of Neyshabur, it is possible to confirm that the video was filmed outside the city hall. One of the frames shows the building’s entrance gate (marked below in orange). A fluorescent sign can also be seen in another frame, and that can be matched to that of a branch of Bank Mellat in Iran Square (marked in red).

Graphic showing how the locations of landmarks in a video from Iran was cross-checked with a satellite image

The BBC journalists were able to verify a number of other videos sent directly by Iranians or posted online on Thursday night and on Friday.

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Security forces firing on protesters

Baneh

This video appears to show a member of the security forces shooting at fleeing people from a gun mounted on the back of a pick-up truck.

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Shots can be heard as the vehicle chases people down a street at night-time in Baneh, a city in the north-western province of Kurdistan.

The Kurdish-populated cities and towns in the west of the country have seen widespread protests and violent crackdowns by security forces since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was from the city of Saqqez, about 40km (25 miles) north-west of Baneh.

Sanandaj

The city of Sanandaj has been the epicentre of the protests in Kurdistan. Several protesters have been shot dead by security forces over the past month, according to Kurdish human rights activists.

This footage from Friday shows protesters running for cover as security personnel on motorbikes drive towards them. Gunfire is heard as they duck into an alley.

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The person filming then peers around a wall as the shots continue to ring out. A group of men on motorbikes, wearing black uniforms and helmets, are seen waiting at the end of the road.

BBC Persian journalists were familiar with the hilly, south-eastern area of Sanandaj that is seen in the video and satellite images showed there are many alleys there. The signs of local shops are also visible in the footage.

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Arrests

Bukan

This footage from overnight shows the moment detained protesters in Bukan, another city in Kurdistan province, are driven away in a pick-up truck by security forces.

The audio has been distorted by the BBC to protect the identity of the person filming and the protesters.

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Tabriz

This footage from the north-western city of Tabriz on Friday shows female special forces personnel, wearing beige uniforms and black flak jackets, violently detaining a woman.

They are seen dragging the woman across a road by her arms and legs and then lifting her towards the open doors of a black minivan. It is not clear why the woman is being detained, although her hair appears to be uncovered near the end of the video.

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The video was filmed near a public library attached to the Imam Khomeini Mosalla, a huge prayer hall.

BBC journalists established the location by searching on Twitter, where they found mention of the mosalla. A local businessperson then told BBC Persian that the arrest took place near the library.

The monument in the foreground of the video, the zebra crossing, the taxi rank and the distinctive gate were located in satellite images.

Tehran

This video, which has caused an uproar on social media, appears to show a member of the security forces sexually assaulting a woman in Tehran’s Argentina Square on Wednesday.

Security officers in protective gear and helmets are seen surrounding a woman. One of them grabs her by the neck and leads her into a crowd of about two dozen police, many of whom are on motorbikes. While she is being forced towards one of the bikes, another officer seems to put his hand on her bottom.

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The woman then crouches on the ground as more officers surround her. A female voice behind the camera is heard saying: “They are pulling her hair.” Drivers in vehicles nearby meanwhile start sounding their horns. The woman, who appears to have no headscarf, is then seen standing up and running away.

Tehran’s police force has confirmed that the incident is being investigated.

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Anti-government chants

Zahedan

In this video from the south-eastern city of Zahedan, male protesters can be seen marching along a street towards the Grand Makki Mosque, whose dome and four minarets are clearly visible in the background, after Friday prayers.

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They can be heard chanting anti-government slogans. One of them is “Death to Basiji” – a reference to the members of the feared paramilitary Basij Resistance Force, loyalist volunteers who have often deployed by the authorities to suppress protests in recent years.

Two weeks ago, Zahedan saw several days of fierce clashes between security forces and ethnic Baluchi protesters erupt after Friday prayers.

Human rights activists said at least 83 protesters and bystanders were killed. The authorities said security forces were attacked by Baluchi separatists – something the imam of the Grand Makki Mosque denied.

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