Iran's Revolution on Film


When millions of Iranians flooded the streets in June 2009 to protest the disputed election, it was all recorded--on video cameras and cell phones. For the West, these grainy amateur images were the only witness to the uprising and the brutal crackdown. Recently, a group that has been collecting the digital documentation of last year's protests received 6,000 of these videos from a student leader who fled Iran. Here are some of these remarkable, often disturbing recordings that document a brave, brutal, and heartbreaking history. Many of these images have never been seen before.

Isfahan, June 15, 2009
On this day, hundreds of thousands of Iranians were gathering in crowds in the streets as security forces and state-sponsored militias attempted to break up any demonstrations. This footage captures injured civilians lying on the ground a short way from the crowds. One of the men was shot in the street; another clutches a bandage to his ear. Many of those attacked were Isfahan students, one of whom was reported to have died.

Meghdad Basij Station, Tehran, June 15, 2009
This footage documents an attack on civilians, allegedly by the state-sponsored paramilitary Basij (which denied all involvement). As a man lies bleeding on the ground, some try to help him; others shoot video of him with camera phones. In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, one man places his hands in the blood of his dead "brother." The protesters shout "Ya Hossain-Allah Akbar" (God is great).

Meghdad Basij Station, Tehran, June 15, 2009
According to unconfirmed reports, several people died outside this compound in June last year. In this footage you can see protesters throwing rocks and from the top of the compound bullets being fired. The wounded are carried away. The Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) released statements claiming that protesters were attacked by "rogue forces" outside the compound and not by IRGC officers. The Iranians who collated these videos believe this video contradicts those statements.

Haft-e-Tir Square, Tehran, June 17, 2009
On June 17, the fourth day of protests, millions of people marched through Tehran silently, making peace signs with their fingers. This is the sign of the opposition movement, which is commonly called the Green Movement, as well as the Green Wave, the Sea of Green, or the Persian Awakening.

Tehran, June 17, 2009
On June 17, as protests continued, the streets of Tehran remained chaotic and dangerous. In this video, gunfire can be heard as a crowd gathers, shouting and wailing, around the body of a man who is bleeding profusely. Again, the scene was filmed from several angles by those with camera phones in an attempt to capture the brutality and horror of the moment.

Tehran, June 18, 2009
Here we see the political candidate whose votes were thought to have been undercounted, Mir Hossein Mousavi, appearing among a crowd of emotional protesters chanting, "We support you, Mousavi!" On June 15, Mousavi had officially appealed the result to the Guardian Council. The day after, the Ayatollah Khamenei declared the claims of fraud would be investigated. The gathering shown here was held two days after the Guardian Council agreed to recount the votes. In the midst of the anger, brutality, and chaos, there suddenly seemed to be a slender and brief ray of hope.

Haft-e-Tir Square, Tehran, June 18, 2009
This video was shot from a high-rise building overlooking Haft-e-Tir Square in the center of Tehran. The large crowd, which stretches from one end of the city to the other, is marching silently and peacefully.

Tehran, June 18, 2009
Here we see the Revolutionary Guards roughing up a civilian. Shot by someone hidden in a building overlooking the scene, the footage clearly shows several guards repeatedly beating and kicking a man who stumbles along, head bowed, as they drag him along the street. These videos are among the most controversial, as they show government forces out on the streets, beating civilians in plain view.

Location unknown, Oct. 24, 2009
This video shows a group of women known as the "mourning mothers" walking along the streets at night, singing the anthem of the Islamic Republic and then "Yare Dabestanie Man," which is the protest song of the Green Movement. With their voices, they offer up a strong, though subtle, challenge to the Iranian regime. These women used to gather once a week in Laleh Park, Tehran, near the place and time of the killing of Neda Aghan Soltan. All of them had children who were killed or put in prison or who disappeared during the post-election violence. In December last year, they were arrested and detained for two days. In January, 33 of them were beaten and arrested. Ten were taken to the hospital.

Location unknown, Oct. 28, 2009
Many of those arrested by the Revolutionary Guard during the June protests were still in jail in November. This video shows a vigil where their families held up photos and placards of their missing loved ones.

University of Kashan, Kashan Province, Nov. 11, 2009
Many of the Green Movement's leaders were students: one of the first places that the Iranian regime attacked once the protests began were universities throughout Iran. As their rooms were ransacked--or burnt--students were beaten and chased out of their dormitories and some were shot. Months later, defiant students returned to protest, holding hands, at the University of Kashan, which has about 6,000 students and is located south of Tehran.

Hamedan, Nov. 13, 2009
Here we see further evidence of peaceful, courageous dissent within Iran. Again, the leaders of the protests are students: these are from Hamedan and have laid out their government-supplied lunches in a long line along the pavement. Their message: we will not be fed by a regime that silences us.