The crackdown by the Islamic Republic of Iran on the nationwide protest movement triggered by the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police has intensified day by day. The number of casualties recorded over the past seven weeks illustrates the unrelenting violence to which the mostly peaceful protestors, from children to the elderly, as well as passers-by and onlookers are being submitted.
Reports show that security forces are using a range of anti-riot and military equipment to smash the widespread protests, including armored vehicles rammed into crowds, shotguns that fire different types of pellets, riot-control guns used to launch teargas canisters and stun grenades, military weapons aimed at killing demonstrators, and CCTV cameras to identify them.
Such equipment has killed, directly or indirectly, hundreds of Iranians and have endangered the lives and health of thousands of others. They are part of a lucrative, multibillion-dollar business that fills the pockets of tens of domestic and foreign companies that either produce, sell or import them to Iran.
IranWire has screened hundreds of pictures, videos and interviews of eyewitnesses and experts to identify the equipment used in the crackdown on the unrest, as well as the manufacturers and other companies that provide this equipment to the Iranian security forces.
Pictures and eyewitnesses have identified at least three types of armored vehicles used against the protesters: water cannons, the Rateq armored vehicle and the Fateq armored personnel carrier.
Heavy Water Cannon Vehicles
There have been reports that water cannons have been used in the cities of Tehran, Rasht, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tabriz. Pictures show they were deployed in the streets of Tehran and Rasht, capital of the northern province of Gilan:
These 25-ton vehicles feature two revolving cannons with a range of 70 meters that can rotate 180 degrees. Each hold 10,000 liters of water.
The trucks can spray tear gas, burning and malodorant chemicals or colored water stored in three 100-liter containers. They are also equipped with a plow that can demolish makeshift barricades.
The manufacturer’s logo or name cannot be seen on these vehicles. One possibility is that they are Chinese-made DES-516B vehicles or that have been manufactured based on this model. There are reports that a number of these vehicles were imported by Iran through the port of Bandar Abbas in late 2010. These vehicles are manufactured by Dalian Eagle Sky Industries (DES) and are said to cost around $650,000.
Pictures taken in Iran also show water cannon vehicles that closely resemble the TITAN 6X4/6X6, made by South Korean manufacturer Jino Motors.
Jino Motors, founded in 2002 as an affiliate of Jino Corporation, specializes in producing police equipment.
According to the website of Jino Motors, this company has sold hundreds of anti-riot vehicles to more than 20 countries. The company has not responded to inquiries sent by IranWire about the supply of vehicles to the Islamic Republic, but its website does list Iran as one of its customers:
Fateq Armored Personnel Carrier
This armored vehicle can carry 10 personnel and is equipped with a turret with four openings that can be used to shoot teargas or bullets.
This vehicle has been extensively used by the Iranian riot police. Pictures from Tabriz, capital of East Azerbaijan province, show two of them trying to run over protesters.
This vehicle is manufactured in three models by Iran’s Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara Company.
In a documentary titled A Day with the Commander, Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hasan Karami, commander of the Police Special Units, the riot police, presents two models of the vehicle.
He says that one model (the vehicle on the right in the following picture) features the chassis and engine of a Toyota van and costs around 300 million tomans, close to $7,300 at the official exchange rate.
He claims that another model (the vehicle in the middle in the picture) is entirely made in Iran for a cost of around 120 million tomans (slightly over $2,900).
The logo of Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara Co. is clearly visible on the rightmost vehicle and matches a picture published in the company’s online catalog.
Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara, founded in 2010, is a private company that manufactures security equipment. Mohammad Zandi Aliabadi and Hossein Zandi Aliabadi are the current chairman and vice chairman of its board of directors, respectively. Its CEO has been Fatemeh Haghshenas since 2013.
This company is active in manufacturing a wide variety of equipment, including police vehicles, armored cash transport trucks, telecommunication towers, elevators, safes and secure rooms.
Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara represents Selcom for manufacturing elevator parts and Slovak Troliga Bus Company for manufacturing and the assembly of buses, but a major portion of this company’s projects are related to producing equipment for the police and military, including armored vehicles, bulletproof vests and shields and even automatic grenade launchers, as their online catalogue shows:
Rateq Armored Vehicle
The Rateq, the heaviest armored vehicle used by Iran’s riot police, is apparently used as a barricade vehicle. It can carry up to 21 personnel and can be equipped with sonic weapons, riot shield lights, shooting turrets and facial-recognition cameras.
A report by Fars news agency quotes a sergeant as saying the passengers of this vehicle include "our sniper, our paintball shooter and our teargas launcher shooter.".
The Rateq is also manufactured by Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara Company and it appears that parts manufactured by Slovak Troliga Bus Company are used to produce it.
There have been several reports by eyewitnesses about the presence of Rateq vehicles during recent protests but, as of now, the author of this article has not received any picture showing them on the scene of protests and would pass fact checking.
Weapons of various kinds have been used wantonly and extensively to suppress protests. Security forces have often used these weapons for attacking, punishing, hurting, torturing or killing protesters, without taking any precautions or following any rules.
According to Article 7 of Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, murder or torture, “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack” is considered a crime against humanity.
Videos and pictures show that the security forces deliberately use less lethal weapons to torture or kill protesters. In many cases, such weapons are used against detainees who are completely subdued and are not in a position to pose any threat.
Security forces use a collection of weapons that include automatic assault weapons, semi-automatic sniper guns, handguns, paintball guns, tasers and various types of batons. But where do they get these weapons from?
Reports and pictures from many Iranian cities show that national police officers, Revolutionary Guards and members of the Basij paramilitary force have been using assault rifles against protesters.
Pictures of police officers, Revolutionary Guards and Basijis, as well as empty shells, show that Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles have been used repeatedly in various parts of Iran by all three agencies involved in suppressing the protests.
The models AKM (Avtomat) and AKA-103, which shoot deadly 7.62×39mm rounds are among battle rifles used against protesters. A 2016 report by Tasnim, a news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, said the guards had received shipments of Russian-made AK-103, a lighter and a more advanced model than AK-47. The following year, the Islamic Republic claimed it had started manufacturing its own version of Kalashnikov, called AK-133.
Dragunov Semi-Automatic Marksman Rifle
The Dragunov (SVD) is a sniper rifle that uses 7.62×54mm ammunition, its magazine holds 10 bullets, and it has an effective range of 800 meters. Its mechanism is similar to that of the AK-47. This rifle is usually equipped with a PSO-1 optical sight with 4× magnification. Some models can be equipped with night vision sights.
This rifle has been extensively used to target protesters in Iran, especially during Black Friday in Zahedan, when dozens were killed and hundreds injured. An examination of the dead bodies shows that many of the victims were killed with a single bullet to the head, the neck or the heart, implying that a high-precision, long-range rifle was used.
Entebagh Gostar Sepehr Co., whose CEO is Gholamreza Ramezanian Sani, produces a wide range of security equipment such as the optics for the Dragunov:
Other Weapons Used against Protestors
In violation to both domestic and international laws, shotguns and grenade launchers have been used against protesters and, along with assault rifles, have killed many. As numerous videos show, the security forces use these supposedly less lethal weapons to harm, torture and kill protestors.
In a video from Tehran’s neighborhood of Nazi Abad, more than 12 security personnel can be seen viciously beating a man lying on the ground. A police motorcyclist drives over his leg several times and, finally, another officer shoots at the man with a shotgun from less than one meter away:
Shotguns have been used against protesters by all the agencies involved in the repression of protests, including the police, Revolutionary Guards, Basijis and plainclothes personnel. This gun with an unbored barrel shoots lead pellets.
Shotguns use three main types of shells: birdshots, buckshots and slugs.
Birdshots are small pellets that spread wider but are less impactful, a reason why they are generally used to hunt birds. The number of pellets in a shell varies, depending on their size, which usually ranges from 1.75mm to 5.8mm. The effective range of birdshots is around 45 meters.
The size of buckshots ranges from 5.08mm to 15.2mm. Their effective range is only around 35 meters, but they have a bigger damage impact than the birdshots.
Single pellets, or slugs, are the most powerful shotgun ammunition. Their shape is either conical or round and the weigh can vary from 10 to 58 grams. It is effective up to around 100 meters.
Pictures of empty shells and injuries suffered by protesters show that birdshots and buckshots have been used extensively to crack down on rallies. Shotguns used by security forces are almost always 12-gauge guns. A 12-gauge shell can contain small or large pellets or even one slug pellet but the size and the diameter of the shell remains fixed. When fired at close range, the pellets can be deadly when they hit the head, eyes, chest or abdomen. Many pictures show security personnel using shotguns from a distance inferior to five meters and aiming at the protester's head or chest..
After examining the deep wounds sustained by protesters, some reporters have alleged they had been hit by slugs (See picture below). Round slugs do exist in Iran and have been used in the past but this conclusion, based on available pictures and victims’ testimonies, is questionable.
According to a report by BBC Persian, the victim was shot from half a meter. Using a slug in such a short distance would definitely result in death or amputation. The destructive power of a slug is such that it causes severe cuts, breaks bones or cuts off limbs. However, pictures shown in this report suggest the wounds had been caused by buckshots fired from a relatively close distance where the plastic encasement of the pellets, known as wad, also penetrated the body.
According to a report by Lorenzo Gitto and Robert Stoppacher, slugs frequently produce exit wounds. In another report, medical experts have examined the effects of a slug after it exited the body of a wild boar and hit a hunter, clearly illustrating the destructive power of slugs.
In the BBC’s report, the victim says that the security agents pointed the gun to his knee and fired. Firing a slug at a short distance would undoubtedly severe the lower leg and disintegrate the bone. When the wad enters the body, it can cause a deep wound without severing the limb and destroying the bones. In other pictures, we do see that the wad is being removed from the body of the victim.
Shotguns carried by security forces seen in pictures fall into two groups. The first group includes long shotguns with fixed buttstocks that usually belong to the Yuz model, manufactured by Khorasan Shahid Kaveh Industries, a subsidiary of Iran’s Ministry of Defense, or the Karatay 612 HD. A promotional video made by the Police Special Units shows a shotgun on which “Karatay” is clearly visible. This Turkish manufacturer of this shotgun, Akkar Silah Sanayi, has not answered to IranWire’s request for information.
Iranian security forces also likely using the Escort MPA-TS semi-automatic model, made by Turkish manufacturer HATSAN. It has a short barrel, and the buttstock is adjustable. This 12-gauge gun has a 76 mm chamber, and is specifically designed for law enforcement. Pictures of this gun on the company’s website correspond to rifles carried by Iranian security agents. IranWire contacted the company for more information but did not immediately receive any answer.
Almost all shotgun pellets used to suppress protests and seen on pictures have been made by subsidiaries of the Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group (AMIG), itself a subsidiary of Iran’s Ministry of Defense. This group owns tens of ammunition manufacturing companies across Iran, including Shahid Shiroodi Ammunition Industries.
Security forces use three kinds of teargas launchers: pistols, handguns and six-shooters. Pistol and handgun teargas launchers are 38mm-caliber and foldable. The pistol model is 265mm long and weighs 1,360 grams. The handgun model is 770mm long and weighs 2,290 grams. The SJ-600 six-shooter comes in two calibers -- 40mm and 38mm – and weights 6 kilograms and 3 kilograms, respectively. Government media claim this model is manufactured by the Iranian Ministry of Defense, but SJ-600N is a model manufactured by a South Korean firm, Korea Defense Industry Ltd. Some of the 38mm handgun teargas launchers are imported from China and Turkey. As mentioned earlier, Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara is an Iranian private company that manufactures grenade launchers and sells them to local security forces.
Many companies in Iran supply the security forces with equipment. Three of them are exclusively involved in manufacturing and importing such equipment: Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara, Entebagh Gostar Sepehr and Naji Pas, a subsidiary of the Police Cooperative Foundation (Bonyad Tavon NAJA).
The activities of Imen Sanat Zaman-Fara are described above. Entebagh Gostar Sepehr Co. provides sniper guns and all sorts of riot control equipment such as bulletproof outfits, handcuffs and batons.
Naji Pas plays an important intermediary role between the Iranian security and intelligence agencies and domestic/foreign companies in the supply of equipment. This company was founded in 2003 and its current CEO is Reza Asgharian. Mohammad Hossein Mirzaye Kashani is the chairman of the board of directors and Khosro Ahmadvand is his deputy. This company is an affiliate of the Police Cooperative Foundation. Representatives from Tavan Pouya Investment, Najm Middle East Chain Stores and Naji Research and Development are members of the board of directors.
Since 2003, Naji Pas Company has organized the Police, Safety, and Security Equipment Exhibition (IPAS) in Tehran. The company defines its mission as providing most of what is needed by forces of law and order from both domestic and foreign suppliers through trade, exhibitions, services, industrial development, and import/export.
The website of Iran’s Commercial Companies Information Bank says it has received 9.7 million euros at the low official price from the government. The Police Cooperative Foundation, which has a representative on Naji Pars’ board of directors, was sanctioned by the United States in 2020. It seems that the Iranian government is trying to use private companies to bypass sanctions that have hit most state-owned companies involved in the supply of equipment to security forces.
Despite official claims, it seems that a major part of the equipment used by security forces is being imported from other countries. Some companies in Iran are engaged in facilitating imports. Soltan Tejarat Bazargan says on its website that it provides services to help clear police equipment at the customs office:
The webpage refers to codes identifying customs tariffs for equipment such as weapons and teargas. These devices are purchased from companies all over the world, like the Chinese company Deqing Fox Armor Co, which has a Persian-language website. It manufactures a variety of anti-riot equipment, including pepper spray that has been seen in Iran. Some have mistakenly said on social media it was a U.S. product because of the words “American Style” writer on the canisters.
Given the dearth of available sources, this report shows only the tip of the iceberg.
Considering the dearth of available sources, this report only shows the tip of the iceberg made up of companies that are active in providing security forces with their equipment for suppressing protesters. The volume of the trade generated by these companies reaches millions and millions of dollars, making their owners very rich to the detriment of the hundreds of Iranians who are being killed and wounded by these equipment.