London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran showcased the latest anti-riot equipment designed to suppress unrest in the country during a joint ceremony held by elite units of Iran’s military and police forces on Wednesday October 9 in Tehran.
In the aftermath of Iran’s contested 2009 presidential election that led to widespread demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people, Iranian police forces reinforced its capability to react as swiftly and fiercely as possible to popular unrest.
Most Iranian news agencies were invited to report on the event showcasing photos of the latest sophisticated equipment in use by the anti-riot unit affiliated to Iran’s Police Force.
A variety of sophisticated new models of anti-riot vehicles with “urban combat capabilities” were showcased during the ceremony at a military base in Tehran.
Gen. Hassan Karami, commander of Iran’s Special Force for Anti-Terror, said the employment of new equipment is in line with ensuring “détente capabilities” as well as ensuring the “maximum ability to deal with any potential crisis.” The Special Force for Anti-Terror is in charge of dealing with public unrest in Iran.
Karami announced that the forces under his command have been authorized to undertake additional tasks including emergency response and urban defense. “In addition to our main task that is controlling and defusing riots, we have trained the Special Unit Force with appropriate training to deal with any unpredictable situation” Karami added.
Most of the equipment on show is new and the showcase represents a clear sign that any attempt to incite unrest in Iran will be dealt with forcefully by government forces. Each vehicle on show included a sign with the vehicles name and purpose. For example, an anti-riot armored vehicle named the Faategh is designed to carry a large number of personnel; the vehicle is bulletproof and impenetrable to fire. Iran’s security and military forces also showcased vehicles capable of dispersing protests equipped with high pressure water cannons.
The vehicle that attracted the most comments on Iranian social media was called the Saegheh(Thunderbolt); the vehicle is able to deploy high intensity strobe lighting with the ability to temporarily blind protesters and represents a unique technology in anti-riot capabilities.
In briefing notes gathered by reporters at the event it was revealed that the anti-riot special unit have been trained to use firearms and weaponry and ammunition have also been deployed.
In his speech Gen. Karami acknowledged that his unit did not previously possess firearms but that all necessary precautions are being taken to ensure effective response by the Special Force for Anti-Terror.
The new policy seems to contrast with comments made by General Ahmadi-Moghaddam two years ago who said that the task of Special Forces units is to control and defuse crises, not suppress protests.
Iran’s police force faced unprecedented condemnation and criticism over how it suppressed peaceful pro-reform demonstrations in 2009. Video clips of police vans running over protesters, as well as police beating women and youth, were posted on YouTube and broadcast on news channels worldwide.
The event also showcased that new female recruits have joined the special unit. Dressed in a mixture of black chadorand uniforms, but wearing military boots and arm bands revealing the rank, this is the first time that women have been permitted to join the special unit. Gen. Karami had previously announced that female officers would join Iran’s Special Force to deal with female rioters. He described the new female cohort as being “physically well-trained and very strong”.