Tuesday, January 5, 2010

CLOSE-UP - Medical center rejects body of protester run over by security forces

Much of the information coming out of Iran is in the form of footage uploaded to the Internet without the benefit of any description or explanation. Each installment in the Close-up series will provide an in-depth analysis of a single video or a series of videos covering one event.

These videos show a female protester just after she was run over by a car and then her body being rejected by a medical center in Tehran on December 27. Her corpse is crammed onto the back seats of a silver car and driven away.

The videos
Video 1: The body is brought out of the medical center on a stretcher:

Video 2: The face of the dead protester is glimpsed as she is placed in the car:

Video 3: The same scene is filmed from an upstairs window across the street:

Video 4: Most probably showing the same protester just after she was run over by a car.

The circumstances

Frame 1 (0:12) from video 1 shows a sign over the building's entrance. It reads, 'Ammar Day-and-Night Medical Center:'

Ammar is an emergency center connected to the Tehran municipality. It is featured among the network of medical centers of the Sherkateh Shahreh Salem Tehran (Healthy City Company of Tehran), overseen by Tehran City Hall. Ammar medical center is marked with a red arrow in the screen capture below:

Ammar medical center is situated at 419, Behboudi Street, Tehran:

View Ammar medical center, Tehran in a larger map

The date of the videos is almost definitely Ashura, December 27, 2009. The Iranian opposition took advantage of the commemoration of the 7th-Century martyrdom of Imam Hossein to stage protest rallies. Footage of the rallies and the violence of the security forces is widely available on YouTube. At the 2:16 mark on video 3, we hear the cameraman say, 'It took 1,400 years for us to see the real Ashura!' At the 2:37 mark, the crowd begins chanting 'Mourning, mourning, today is a day of mourning,' before loudly shouting, 'Death to the dictator!'

In a separate confirmation of this information, the following text appeared on forums and YouTube after video 2 was posted:
On Ashura day, I had to go towards Behboudi Street. It was around 1 PM, if I'm not mistaken. I saw a black Sonata drive quickly up Behboudi from Azadi Street (NB One of the protest sites in Tehran) and heard a woman screaming. I saw it go towards Ammar Yasser medical center. I made my way over there and saw them bringing a woman out of the car. They said that a police van had run over her on Azadi Street. Then the Sonata left. They brought a stretcher out of the medical center and took the body in. It was clear that she was dead because her limbs were broken and she wasn't moving. They said that she was a 37- or 38-year-old woman and that no one was accompanying her. This is the same woman who was among the martyrs of Ashura and who has not been identified yet. I saw her face. I'm even in the images that you posted. They brought the body out five minutes later and said stop a car and take her to the hospital. They said that they couldn't keep her. We said, Don't you have an ambulance? I think they lied and said no. Finally, a silver Samand (NB Automobile made by Iran Khodro), you can see it in the video, accepted to take her. They managed with great difficulty to put the body in the car and take it away. 

A statement released by the Islamic Republic's police last week confirmed that 8 individuals had died during the protests on Ashura day. The police added that two dead individuals, a 31-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman, had yet to be identified. The official statement claimed that the woman had 'either fallen off a bridge or had an accident.'

Video 4, which was posted days after the others, almost definitely shows the same woman, whose corpse was rejected by the medical center, just after she was run over by a police vehicle.

The following is a translation of the comments on the video:
Man: Take her over there. There's a van.
Woman: (inaudible) I don't know her. (NB Corresponds to the account above which states that the woman was not accompanied by anyone.)
Man: You see what these sons of whores are like?
Man: Cover her. What did they do to her?
Man: He ran over her with two wheels, the bastard!
Man: Let's take her before they come back.
Man: She's crushed and you're bringing water? Bring a car and take her away.
Man: Pick her up.
Woman: Wrap her in her coat and pick her up.
Man: Don't move her. She might have broken bones all over. Miss, I'm a doctor. Don't move her.

A comparison between the face of the dead protester in video 2 (frame 2, below) and the partially covered face of the injured protester in video 4 (frames 3-5, below) is inconclusive, although the hair color and thin eyebrows seem to match. However we catch a fleeting glimpse of the dead woman's striped green shirt in video 2 (frame 6, below)and this also matches the shirt of the injured protester leading this observer to conclude that the two videos almost certainly are of the same woman:

Footage of two police vehicles plowing through protesters and killing at least one person on Vali Asr Square has received broad media attention:

However, the woman shown in videos 1 to 4 was killed kilometers to the west of Vali Asr Square. This seems to indicate that far from being an accident or the work of zealous renegades, running over protesters has become the newest officially sanctioned tactic of security forces.