Israel’s Channel 12 aired footage shot on its behalf from Tehran with a concealed camera, giving Israeli viewers a rare glimpse on Monday night into the grassroots, women-led protest movement that has swept Iran over the past three weeks.
It was unclear how Channel 12 obtained the footage or when exactly it was taken. Any interaction between an Iranian citizen and Israeli media is likely to be viewed extremely negatively by Iranian authorities, who are currently battling to control a wave of protests triggered by the death of a young woman while in police custody.
Earlier Monday, Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei blamed the US and Israel for orchestrating the protests.
Mahsa Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on September 16, days after the notorious morality police detained the Kurdish Iranian for allegedly breaching rules forcing women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes. Anger over Amini’s death has sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock Iran in almost three years, with security forces in Tehran cracking down on hundreds of university students on Sunday night.
The protests have grown into an open challenge to the Iranian leadership, with women burning their state-mandated headscarves and chants of “Death to the dictator,” echoing from streets and balconies after dark.
The footage aired on Channel 12 opens with the cameraperson, whose voice is distorted for safety reasons, greeting the Israeli channel’s Palestinian Affairs correspondent Ohad Hemo with “Shalom Ohad, I am with the protesters in Iran… Now I am filming the protests with a hidden camera.”
The camera briefly pans to the cameraperson’s face concealed behind a mask.
Narrating as he walks, the cameraman identifies both plainclothed and uniformed police officers, who are preparing to quell the protesting crowd.
The footage shows protesters chanting “I will kill whoever kills my brother,” and “death to the dictator,” a reference to Khamenei.
Protesters can also be heard repeatedly encouraging each other not to be afraid, despite the brutal and at times deadly tactics of the police force.
Security forces have responded with tear gas, metal pellets and in some cases live fire, according to rights groups and widely shared footage, although the scope of the crackdown remains unclear.
At least 92 protesters have been killed so far in the demonstrations, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), which has been working to assess the death toll despite internet outages and blocks on WhatsApp, Instagram, and other online services.
Amnesty International said earlier it had confirmed 53 deaths, after Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said last week that “around 60″ people had died.
At least 12 members of security forces have been reported killed since September 16.
Concern grew on Monday over a night-time crackdown on students at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology where, local media reported, riot police carrying steel pellet guns used tear gas and paintball guns against hundreds of students.
Woman, life, liberty” the students shouted, as well as “students prefer death to humiliation”, Mehr news agency reported.
IHR posted videos apparently showing police on motorcycles chasing students running through an underground car park and taking away detainees, their heads covered in black cloth bags.
In one clip, which IHR said was taken at a Tehran metro station, a crowd can be heard chanting: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!”
The footage aired on Channel 12 included an interview with a woman protesting against the compulsory head-covering laws.
The police are “already finished,” the unidentified woman said, adding “they won’t be able to cope much longer.”
“If we no longer want the Ayatollah’s regime, what can we do? Where will our voices be heard?” asked the protester.
Another anonymous protester told the camera” “I have a message for the leaders of the regime: the people no longer want you. If I was to lead this country I would do a far better job than you.
Khamenei addressed the protests on Monday, his first public comments on the matter, blaming the Americans and “Zionist” forces for fomenting the protests, claiming that many of the protesters were being paid.
“This rioting was planned…These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees,” Khamenei told student police officers.
He warned that “those who foment unrest to sabotage the Islamic Republic deserve harsh prosecution and punishment.”
The protests over Amini’s death have tapped into a deep well of grievances in Iran, including the country’s surging prices, high unemployment, social restrictions and political repression. Demonstrations have continued in Tehran and far-flung provinces even as authorities have restricted internet access to the outside world and blocked social media apps.
Universities in major cities including Isfahan in central Iran, Mashhad in the northeast and Kermanshah in the west have held protests featuring crowds of students clapping, chanting, and burning state-mandated headscarves.
“Students are awake, they hate the leadership!” chanted crowds of students at the University of Mazandaran in the country’s north.