Iran's state television Tuesday aired "confessions" of a young woman and man admitting to torching the tents of farmers protesting in Esfahan to provoke a riot.
The city protests, centered in the dried-up Zayandeh Roud riverbed, ended in security forces confronting the protesters with tear gas and shotguns on Thursday and Friday with at least 67 arrests and scores of injuries. "The confessions of these detainees show that the enemy cares nothing about the rightful demands of the farmers and the people of Esfahan," the program noted.
The two detainees − whose faces were obscured and voices distorted, purportedly to protect their identities − said they had poured fuel around the farmers’ tents in the early hours of Thursday.
"Burn the tents," the woman claimed she called out to her male companion, named as Mehdi. She said security forces were subsequently very polite "and pleaded with people to go home.”
The young man in the video said he had found empty tear-gas canisters that he used with red paint to create images of bloodshed for photos and films, presumably to circulate on social media.
Ophthalmologists in the past few days have reported tens of cases of eye injuries caused by shotgun pellets. A medical official told Iranian state television Saturday that 40 people had been treated for eye injuries sustained during the protests, with 19 hospitalized.
People symbolically put a patch on one ye to highlight injuries protesters suffered in Esfahan protests.
Tuesday’s program claimed that the two confessing to their role in Esfahan and others had played “a direct role in instigating the farmers to continue their protest." Other outlets, including Tasnim news agency, have circulated excerpts from the program including on Twitter alongside the caption "Confessions of a rioter woman in recent incidents in Esfahan.”
Authorities and hardliner media have accused some Esfahan protestors of being rioters and "agents of the enemies" who tried to highjack the farmers' legitimate protests over water shortages that have wracked the region in recent years. Kayhan newspaper called the protesters "America's foot soldiers" who perverted the water protests to "sow unrest and reap sanctions" ahead of Iran’s nuclear talks with world powers in Vienna, which resumed Monday. The chief of Esfahan province's justice department said Tuesday that those responsible would face speedy prosecution.