November Protests in Iran and the Cases of Disappeared Protesters
January 4, 2020 — The November gasoline protests in which started on the midnight of November 15th after the Iranian government announced a 300% increase in gasoline prices, lead to week-long protest and a violent crackdown. Hundreds of protesters were killed, with thousands wounded and arrested but also many have been missing. The disappearance of protesters during the November protests has received relatively little attention. There are data suggesting numerous protesters never came back to their homes. Reporters have documented a few cases, and in social media, several names have been mentioned as missing protesters.
One of those protesters who is still missing is Sardar Azami, a 41-year-old man from the city of Parand. He disappeared on November 16th and after 7 weeks, no one has heard from him.
Sardar is married and has two sons, and the family has followed all possible legal ways to find out what has happened to him.
A source told Zamaneh that the last time he was seen was in Esteghlal Square in the city of Parand, during the protests. Esteghlal Square was the center of the protests during the November unrest in Parand.
The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “On the first days of the protests, around 6 PM, Sardar called his wife telling her that the roads were jam-packed and he would get home as soon as he could find a way out. Eight minutes later his wife was trying to call him but his mobile was turned off. Since then, no one has heard from him again.”
On November 16, in Esteghlal Square in the city of Parand, a shopping center was set on fire. It is not clear who did what and how it happened.
Two people were killed in this fire. One of the victims has not yet been identified.
“The family of Sardar saw the remains of a burned body …it consisted of some bones and a pair of shoes, …. There were several accounts of the story of the burnt body. Someone said it belonged to a 25-year-old, and later it was reported to be the body of a woman. The family could not recognize the shoes as that of Sardar’s….”
A DNA test has been done on the burned body, but the result has yet to be announced.
Sardar’s family has tried official and non-official channels to see if he has been arrested or killed, but their efforts have gone nowhere.
Sardar Azami is 41 years old, and he is a worker. He is Kurdish and a member of the Sunni minority in Iran. He has no record of previous political activities, and according to his relatives, he is just a simple worker.
Parand is a small and newly built city which is located 50 kilometers to the South West of Tehran. During the nationwide protests of Nov, the town of Parand was one of the centers of violent crackdowns.
There has been no official or unofficial release of data about the number of people who had been missing during the November protests in Iran.
There are also a number of people who have been announced as missing in the November protests, but in the recent weeks their bodies have been discovered.
The Iranian officials have not been transparent about the number of those killed by security forces in the November protests. During the unrest, some local officials occasionally mentioned a few cases, however, there was a refusal on the part of the state to announce the numbers.
According to Amnesty International, at least 304 people have been killed. In a report published on Monday, December 23, Reuters said that an unnamed official within the Iranian ministry of the interior revealed that at least 1500 people had been killed. Speaking at a news conference at the State Department on December 5, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, also stated that U.S. government sources believe that the Iranian government forces have killed more than 1,000 protesters.
According to the Iranian authorities, the week-long protests spread to over 100 cities in 29 provinces of Iran. According to Amnesty International protests occurred in around 20 cities including Kermanshah, Bandar-e Mahshahr, Javanrood, Marivan, Behbahan, Ramhormoz, Sadra, Shiraz, Bukan, Karaj and Robatkarim, Khorramshahr, Abadan, Ahvaz, Bumahen, Tehran, Isfahan, Eslamshahr, Sanandaj, Shahriar, and Sirjan. They became violent and tens of protesters were killed.
It has been reported that at least 900 banks, 3000 ATMs, 200 gas stations, hundreds of shops, and governmental buildings were set on fire.
Iranian officials have not been transparent about the wave of arrests during and after the unrest. Despite this, it has been reported that more than 8000 people have been arrested.