According to a parliamentarian, the officials who were present at the meeting were shocked by the interior minister’s indifference and coldness when he made the remarks.
Iran Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli press conference
(photo credit: MOHAMMAD HASSANZADEH/TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)
In response to questions about why so many peaceful protesters were shot in the head and upper body during nationwide protests in November, the Iranian interior minister told officials in a closed door meeting, “We shot them in both the head and the legs, not just the head. We also hit the legs!”
Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist member of the Iranian parliament, told the website Emtedad that Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli made the remark nonchalantly. According to Sadeghi, the officials who were present at the meeting were shocked by the interior minister’s indifference and coldness when he made the remarks.
Rahmani-Fazli told the officials at the meeting that the government decided to work to end the protests in any means possible in 48 hours, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15.
“Lawmakers were astonished by the minister’s response,” said Sadeghi, according to Radio Farda. “My question is whether managing the situation by using firearms to this extent and leaving so many dead is anything to brag about.”
Sadeghi also stressed that the government must announce the death toll of the protests. The parliamentarian is one of a group of lawmakers who tabled a motion to impeach the interior minister as the main authority responsible for the gas price hike that set off protests in November.
After days of protests across Iran in November, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered security and government officials to “Do whatever it takes to end it.”
“The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order,” said Khamenei, as he raised his voice and criticized handling of the unrest on November 17. Khamenei said he would hold the assembled officials responsible for the consequences of the protests if they didn’t immediately stop them.
40 days after the gas protests, Iranians have begun preparations to renew demonstrations and hold memorial events throughout the country.
On Wednesday night, Iranian security forces confronted protesters chanting “Death to Khamenei in multiple cities throughout the Islamic Republic. Earlier in the day, Iran bolstered security forces and began shutting off Internet access in some areas in preparation for expected protests, according to Iranian media. During widespread anti-government protests in November, Iran shut down Internet access throughout the country.
Social media users are using the hashtags “see-you-Thursday” and “December 5th” in calls for protests and have begun using handwritten leaflets with hashtags in preparation for the internet outage, according to Radio Farda. A video on Twitter shows hundreds of leaflets that are being handed out by activists.
The parents of slain protester Pouya Bakhtiari were arrested on Monday night “to protect order and the security of the people who have incurred damage and loss” after they planned to hold a public memorial service for Pouya, according to Radio Farda. Some of his other relatives were also arrested, according to a relative. The Bakhtiari family is one of the few families that has risked discussing the death of their son who was peacefully protesting with international media.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the release of Pouya’s parents. “It’s time for the international community to stand together with the Iranian people and hold the regime accountable,” tweeted Pompeo.
According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, protests in Iran could also be renewed by expected budgetary issues or upcoming parliamentary elections in February.
Reuters contributed to this report.