Truth or Fake: Does this video show victims of a police crackdown after Iran's election?

·4-min read

Three men are lying on the ground, unconscious and likely dead. A video shared on social media in Iran on 21 June claimed to show how the country's new government is already violently repressing citizens. However, although the video is recent and was filmed in Iran, it doesn’t actually show victims of police violence.

In the latest episode of Truth or Fake, FRANCE 24 Observers journalists Catherine Bennett and Ershad Alijani explain how to verify what's happening just by using clues in the video.

In Iran's presidential election in June, Iranians elected the ultra-conservative cleric Ebrahim Raïssi as president. Two days later, there were reports on social media that police violently cracked down on protesters in Yasuj, the capital of the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad. There had been clashes in the town since the municipal elections on 18 June, the day before the national election, with supporters of different candidates accusing each other of electoral fraud.

Police intervened in these clashes. Videos posted online show riot police hitting and shoving protesters.

But on June 21, social media users began sharing a video they claimed showed victims of police abuse. The footage shows three men lying on the ground, surrounded by a group of civilians desperately attempting to help them. One man is giving one of the immobilised men a cardiac massage.

The video was posted along with a caption that read: “The regime has restarted massacres after the election”, along with a hashtag used on posts about violence in Yasuj.

While it is true that security forces in Iran make a habit of violently cracking down on protest movements, this video actually has nothing to do with one of those incidents.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Iran’s Hidden Slaughter: a video investigation by the France 24 Observers

What does the footage show?

We ran this footage through a reverse image search using Invid WeVerify, but we didn’t get any hits. That means the footage is, more likely than not, recent – but it didn’t give us any more clues about the context the video was filmed in.

However, there are clues in the footage itself. First of all, the three men lying on the ground don’t seem to have any visible injuries. There is also no blood, which you might expect if these men were victims of police brutality. None of the people gathered there are saying anything about the police; some are crying while others are calling out for someone to try doing a cardiac massage.

One noticeable detail is that none of the three men are wearing shoes. It is extremely unlikely that they went to protest barefoot.

There are two other important details. First of all, we get a brief glimpse of the license plate of a scooter, which has the number ‘562”, which is the number on plates from the province of Khuzestan, not Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.

Also, you get a brief glimpse of the watch of one of the men trying to help the three victims – it says it is about 11:45am.

We ran a search in Farsi to see if we could find any information about the deaths of three young men in Khuzestan. We found a few articles on three men who died of gas asphyxiation in Baghmalek, a small village in this province on 20 June.

According to local emergency sources, the accident that caused the death of these three men was reported at around 10:30am. This makes sense with the time shown on the video, which is slightly later that morning.

On 21 June, Yasuj police stated that the video had not been filmed in Yasuj and did, indeed, show the incident in Baghmalek.

Conclusion

This video shows victims of an accident in Baghamlek. It doesn’t, as some claimed, show police violence committed by agents of the new Iranian government and it wasn’t filmed in Yasuj.

In Yasuj, "internet connection cut" after clashes

While this video doesn’t show an incident in Yasuj, one did take place: police violently broke up clashes between members of different tribes seeking control of the city council.

Our team spoke to Niki Mahjoub, a journalist based in London who reports for the Farsi-language news channel “Iran International”. Mahjoub has been reporting on the protests in Yasuj. She says they began when locals reported that election fraud had taken place. Local authorities denied this, but the public was not convinced.

“According to the local public prosecutor, more than 100 people have been arrested. There has been an internet blackout for days. However, in some of the videos that have emerged online, you can hear gunfire. No deaths have been reported yet and we don’t have details about any injuries.

It’s important to remember that, more often than not, security forces in Iran do use violence to clamp down on protesters, as we saw in November 2019, when 1,500 people were killed.”

Local media reported that more protests took place in Yasuj on 23 June and the internet blackout there has continued.

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