SPND gases protestors


The first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting wave of protests across Iran has us reflecting on the courage of those who dare to take to the streets. While we’re usually preoccupied with Iran’s nuclear program and other research activities that edge close to the category of weapons of mass destruction, we should remember that the Iranian entities involved in WMD-related work are also responsible for direct acts of repression against legitimate protesters.

SPND, our main bête-noire, is of course no exception.

We’ve written extensively about SPND’s Shahid Meisami Group (گروه شهید میثمی), and its head, Mehran Babri (مهران ببری, National ID: 0050111078). Shahid Meisami and Babri have long been on our radar because of their work developing deadly chemical warfare agents, including V-series nerve agents and Novichok.

Thankfully, unlike Putin’s Russia, Iran hasn’t yet felt the need to apply Novichok or nerve agents to any dissidents.

The Iranian authorities prefer a more prosaic method of quelling protests and squashing dissent on the streets – with tear gas. Any public demonstration that makes local Iranian authorities nervous is now likely to end with police firing clouds of noxious but non-lethal irritants, in order to a) punish dissenters; b) disperse crowds and c) punish dissenters.

Being tear-gassed is not fun. One IRGC-linked medical journal article describes the effects as “confusion (tearing and spasm) of the eyelids and…upper respiratory tract irritation (sneezing and vomiting) [that] temporary disables the person”. And that’s coming from authors who are actually trying to make the case for the use of tear gas. We’d prefer to keep our uncontrolled crying and vomiting confined to the privacy of the Redline offices on a Monday morning, thank you very much.

Tear gas is nasty stuff. But making and selling it involves the application of science and the potential for profit, and so any long-time reader of this blog will not be surprised to learn that SPND is deeply involved in the tear gas business. Indeed, it’s SPND’s Shahid Meisami Group which is responsible for researching and producing tear gas for use by Iranian authorities.

How do we know that? SPND let the cat out of the bag when Shahid Meisami started advertising tear gas for sale at a series of defence expos across the Middle East. We’re not the first to discover this: back in 2019, a US government report on global compliance with international non-proliferation agreements called out Shahid Meisami for marketing smoke grenades containing an irritant chemical named CR (also known as dibenzoxazepine) which Iran hadn’t properly declared.

Of course, SPND and Shahid Meisami haven’t stopped with CR gas. The more widely known tear gas known as “CS” (o‑chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) is also studied in Iran, with SPND taking a keen interest in working on more advanced methods for its development and dispersal.

So next time you’re on the street at a protest, with tear gas grenades going off to your left and right, your eyes are streaming irrepressibly, your throat is burning, uncontrollable streams of phlegm coming from your nose – send thanks to the scientists conducting philanthropic research at SPND.


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