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Video shows Iran Green Movement protest, not 2022 clash

October 10, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A video shows riot police clashing with protesters in Iran amid demonstrations over the death of a 22-year-old woman detained by the country’s morality police last month.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The video shows an unrelated confrontation between protesters and security forces in Iran’s capital more than 10 years ago during Green Movement protests, which were sparked by allegations of vote rigging in the reelection of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

THE FACTS: As protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini continue into their fourth week, social media users are spreading old footage from previous uprisings in the country to falsely claim that it captures the current unrest.

An Israeli TV host on Sunday shared a blurry, low-quality clip appearing to show security forces on red motorcycles engaging with a swarm of people in a city street. Objects can be seen being launched at law enforcement before hordes of people fill the street, some running while others appear to be fighting. A fire can be seen smoldering in the background.

“Iranian people are having none of the basiji regime tasked with putting down protests. Watch the footage from today,” the Twitter user captioned the footage, receiving nearly 1,000 shares and more than 2,000 likes.

But the video does not show the recent protests. It’s been circulating online since as early as November 2010, when a YouTube account called Unity4Iran posted the footage with a caption indicating it was captured in Tehran in December 2009.

In the video, the grassy median in the center of a wide street is lined with green and white curbs. This matches the streets of Tehran, where many thoroughfares are bordered with green and white dividers, according to Associated Press photos and Google street view images of the city. At one point, a yellow bus can be seen in the background of the footage.

Another angle of the clash, filmed from on the ground, was posted to YouTube by a separate account in January 2010. The account also indicated that the footage was captured in December 2009. The same yellow bus, green and white medians and buildings can be seen in this angle of the clash, as well as a red motorcycle toppled on the pavement.

Throughout 2009, massive crowds marched through the streets of Tehran and other cities demanding change in the first major unrest to shake the rule of hard-line Muslim clerics since they came to power in 1979, the AP reported. Becoming known as the “Green Movement,” longstanding resentment over political oppression drew millions after reformist opposition raised accusations that the reelection victory of Ahmadinejad was rigged.

In the video clip shared recently to Twitter, several protesters can be seen wearing the movement’s signature color, green.

While it’s not immediately clear which specific December 2009 demonstration this footage shows, AP reporting from the time documented several similar scenes between such security forces and protesters.

AP reporting from Dec. 7, 2009, said tens of thousands of students took to the streets that day on more than a dozen college campuses. Riot police and pro-government Basij militiamen on fleets of motorcycles flooded Tehran’s main thoroughfares, beating men and women with clubs as crowds of demonstrators hurled bricks and stones, the AP reported. Some protesters set tires and garbage cans ablaze.

The Basij are volunteers in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. They are often pictured riding motorcycles, including red ones.

On Dec. 27 of that year, similar clashes unfolded between security forces and anti-government demonstrators during the Islamic observance of Ashoura, AP reported. The security forces fired on stone-throwing protesters in the center of the capital. In several locations, demonstrators confronted security forces, hurling objects and setting their motorcycles, cars and vans ablaze, AP reported at the time, citing video footage.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.