Thursday , 22 February 2024

IranWire Exclusive: IRGC and Police Training Together to Suppress Protesters

Iranwire – IranWire has obtained several hours of video footage of joint exercises between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the police force of the Islamic Republic to prepare for potential protests.

The footage dates back to 2016, a year before the eruption of mass protests that rocked Iran until last year and were brutally repressed by security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of demonstrators.

The videos shed light on the strategic approach of forces of the Islamic Republic, the nature of the exercise, and the perspectives of IRGC commanders toward public demonstrations. 

IranWire will first publish the edited video footage in its possession, followed by the release of additional files each contributing to the broader narrative of repression.

The base of the Al-Ahmad brigade, situated at the end of Shahid Babaei highway in Tehran, has served as the training ground for the exercise simulating the suppression of protests. 

In the videos, individuals wearing orange attire play the role of protesters, while a group of police officers, Revolutionary Guards and members of other security institutions refine their suppression techniques. 

Infantrymen march in unison, rhythmically striking their batons against their shields and following their commanders’ order to engage in “clean-up” operations to subdue the simulated protests.

The IRGC’s Ramadan and Nasr Sarullah units participated, alongside the police force, to demonstrate “field coordination…in addressing protests.” 

The footage has never been officially released, possibly due to the eruption of protests.

The venue for the exercise was the base of the Al-Ahmad Security Brigade, a division of the organization responsible for counterterrorism matters, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue and urban warfare. 

The Nasr Sarullah unit played a pivotal role in suppressing the protests of 1999 and 2009.

It serves as the primary security unit within the IRGC, and in case of a crisis, it is responsible for maintaining order in Tehran.

Following last year’s nationwide protests, the European Union included Hossein Nejat, the commander of the unit, on its sanctions list. 

The bloc had previously sanctioned Mohammed Hijabi, the former deputy commander.

In the same year as the training exercise was held, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Iraj Masjedi, who served as the chief of staff of the Ramadan camp during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. 

The Ramadan camp serves as the “central point” of the IRGC’s expeditionary Quds forces, which operate under the direct supervision of the leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei.

It is believed that until the end of the Iran-Iraq war, plans to assassinate individuals abroad were coordinated in the Ramadan camp. 

When Khamenei became the leader of the Islamic Republic, the IRGC’s power increased, and the operational and intelligence units of the Ramadan base and other security institutions were linked together to conduct overseas operations.

Another institution that plays a role in the training exercise is the police force, whose officials are on the EU and US sanctions lists. 

Two former Tehran police commanders, Hossein Sajedinia and Hossein Rahimi, were sanctioned following the 2022 protests.

In a segment of the video, the camera pans to the Kowsar Sisters Women’s Group standing in a corner and holding a flag that reads “Zahra’s Exemplary Groups, Greater Tehran Police Command, Ramadan camp.”

The individual tasked with overseeing the exercise is General Ahmad Bigdeli, who currently holds the position of deputy of operations at the Sarullah camp.

Bigdeli, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, held the same position at the Hazrat Mohammad Rasoolullah Corps in Tehran in 2016, the year of the exercise. 

In the video, he provides a detailed explanation of the exercises to the other commanders.

Bigdeli says the fake protesters are chanting “Give us jobs or money to spend” in both Persian and Azeri. 

Then he points at a map and states, “They’re our guys [IRGC personnel]. Police are also on the field. Now, let’s collaborate. We’ll attack from the west to the east, and they’ll attack from the south to clear up the area. This proves that we can work together effectively and demonstrate coordination in field operations.”

Bigdeli further says, “They’ve cleared Keshavarz Boulevard. They’ve blocked the road. Here, the situation has escalated from normal to chaotic, and a car has been set ablaze. Now, Vanak is on high alert. Up there, near Vanak, a similar situation is unfolding. This was also the case in Haft-tir. The orange-clad protesters have moved in. They launched an attack and retreated. They’ve been pushed back.”

In another segment, the commander explains, “The battalions will proceed from this direction to Chamran, then to Seoul [Street]. From behind Seoul, they’ll enter the International Exhibition Hall.”

Several key figures are standing opposite Bigdeli, including General Majid Mirahmadi, the current Deputy Minister of Interior for Security and Law Enforcement and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. 

Previously, Mirahmadi served as the deputy of security for the Armed Forces General Staff. His name appeared on the list of those sanctioned by the EU in December 2022.

He also headed the IRGC’s intelligence department and served as the acting commander of the Basij Force, which is under the command of the IRGC.

Another key figure is Mohammadreza Zahedi, a senior commander of the Quds forces. 

Zahedi was once the commander of the Sarullah camp, and at the time of the 2016 exercise, he was heading the IRGC forces in Syria and Lebanon. He then served as the deputy commander of operations for the IRGC.

Another notable figure is Sardar Gholamreza Mehrabi, the Deputy for Intelligence and Security of the Armed Forces General Staff. 

Over the years, he has been involved in the suppression of protests. 

His name appeared in a letter sent by 24 IRGC commanders to President Mohammad Khatami during the suppression of the protests in 1999. 

The IRGC stood against Khatami after the president labeled the student protests as a continuation of the “chain murders” that rocked Iranian society 25 years ago.

Mehrabi is now considered to be among the most prominent security officials in Iran. 

The almost hour-long edited video mentions locations like the headquarters of Islamic Republic Radio and Television and the International Exhibition Hall in Tehran. 

Throughout the footage, the IRGC and police forces are portrayed as disorganized and careless, squandering vast sums of money. 

After “conquering” Valiasr Square with elite forces, they raised the sign “May God awaken those who dream of America.”

Yet, just one year later, mass protests erupted in various Iranian cities and continued until the brutal suppression of mass demonstrations in 2019 and last year. 

During these years, hundreds of Iranians were tortured, imprisoned, blinded, maimed and killed for peacefully protesting.