Many Iranians taking part in nationwide protests in the past month have complained that they have been beaten, shot at, or arrested by thuggish plainclothesmen.
Others have complained about unknown non-uniformed agents in the streets carrying shotguns who sometimes even boss around uniformed officers.
During the past decades, Iranian activists have called them Hezbollahis, thugs, or simply Lebas-shakhsi [plainclothesmen]. Whatever their name, it is obvious that despite their appearance, they are well-organized, are linked to uniformed security forces or sometimes their members who have put on ordinary outfits in the interest of anonymity.
Most are members of the Basij paramilitary forces under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, the IRGC.
Whoever they are, the Iranian government assumes no responsibility for their crimes, claiming they are protesters engaging in provocations.
Sometimes when they cannot deny the facts, Officials claim that these elements are not armed and do not attack anyone unless they come under attack by protesters. However, people have often photographed or filmed them carrying weapons and attacking and arresting individuals in the streets.
Plainclothes agents assaulting a woman trying to make an arrest
Iranian lawmaker Hossein Noushabadi told reporters on October 17, that "Plainclothes officers have nothing to do with women or protesters in general unless they come under attack." However, he did not say why these officers do not wear uniforms so that everyone recognizes them as official agents. Noushabadi, however, did not rule out the presence of "rouge elements" among the plainclothes officers and acknowledged that some of the protesters have been killed or wounded by these rouge elements.
During the protest that followed the disputed presidential election in 2009, IRGC General Hossein Hamadani organized thousands of prisoners and street thugs to attack protesters and suppress a movement that demanded a fair counting of votes.
"We identified around 5,000 thugs who were present in the riots but were not linked to political parties. We usually controlled them by not allowing them to come out of their homes in sensitive junctures. I recruited them and organized them in three battalions. I knew that we need to train and use individuals who were familiar with knives and daggers and swords," Hamadani told reporters.
Plainclothesmen attacking protesters in Mashhad, second largest city in Iran
During the recent round of protest that started in mid-September social media reports and victim’s families revealed how the plainclothes elements operate. BBC Persian interviewed a Kurdish woman who said that thugs stormed her son's house and arrested him. She said that the incident led to her daughter-in-law's miscarriage.
According to a report posted on the Twitter account of Iran Human Rights (IHR NGO) aTehran University Student in late September revealed that plainclothes officers had wounded him because of assault and battery.
In fact, some of the officers involved in the death of Mahsa Amini were plainclothes elements. Her death after being arrested by the ‘morality police’ triggered the current protests.
In another development, Iranian journalist Milad Pour Isa tweeted on Tuesday that plainclothes officers arrested around 20 Mazandaran University students.
According to Rouydad24 news website in Tehran, when people produce evidence that they were beaten or arrested by plainclothes individuals or even when videos of plainclothes officers arresting, beating or shooting at protesters emerge, the government always claims that they were "rogue elements."
As long as all law enforcement officers in Iran do not wear uniforms, the government can always get away with criminal acts committed by them. Since 1999, when plainclothes officers violently suppressed a student uprising in Tehran killing several students, some regime insiders have been trying to convince the security forces to issue uniforms to all law enforcers, to no avail. Security forces are under the command of Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei who needs the plainclothes agents to save the regime from the people.