• Support a Democratic, Secular, Republic and Non-Nuclear Iran

Iran: Young man at grave risk of execution in connection with protests amid ‘killing spree’

Blog

  • Iran: Young man at grave risk of execution in connection with protests amid ‘killing spree’


    Amnesty International January 11: The Iranian authorities must immediately halt all executions of people sentenced to death in relation to nationwide protests, Amnesty International said today, condemning the arbitrary executions of Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini on 7 January and warning that Mohammad Ghobadlou and others risk the same fate.

    On 2 January, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence of Mohammad Ghobadlou, 22, in connection with the ongoing nationwide protests, making his sentence final and raising fears that his execution is imminent. In the past week, the authorities also announced five further protest-related death sentences imposed by Revolutionary Courts.

    “It is abhorrent that the Iranian authorities persist in their state-sanctioned killing spree as they desperately seek to end the protests and cling to power by instilling fear among the public,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The arbitrary executions of Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, just days after their death sentences were upheld, reveal how the Iranian authorities continue to wield the death penalty as a weapon of repression, and serve as a chilling reminder that scores of others remain at risk of execution.”

    While the Iranian authorities pursue their assault on the right to life to crush protests, the people of Iran continue to stand up for human rights. Families of those at risk of executions and their supporters waged protests outside Raja’i Shahr prison on 8 and 9 January, where Mohammad Ghobadlou and some others on death row are held, even as authorities attempted to disperse them by firing shots into the air. The families’ anguish is exacerbated by the authorities’ persistent secrecy on their use of the death penalty and refusal to provide families and lawyers advance notice of executions.

    At grave risk of execution

    Mohammad Ghobadlou is at grave risk of execution after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence on 2 January 2023. He was sentenced to death for “spreading corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel arz) after a fast-tracked, grossly unfair sham trial before a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The prosecution relied on torture-tainted “confessions” to convict him of running over officials with a car, killing one and injuring others.

    Mohammad Ghobaldou was also tried before a criminal court in Tehran on charges stemming from the same alleged acts, in contravention of the protection against double jeopardy. If convicted, he could receive a second death sentence.

    It is abhorrent that the Iranian authorities persist in their state-sanctioned killing spree as they desperately seek to end the protests and cling to power by instilling fear among the public.

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International

    No adequate examinations of Mohammad Ghobadlou’s mental health were conducted by the authorities and his mother has stated that he is being denied medication for his mental health condition in prison. On 29 December 2022, a group of psychiatrists published an open letter to the head of judiciary urging a closer examination of his mental health and its possible impact on his ability to exercise judgement.

    Mohammad Ghobadlou’s lawyer has filed a request for a judicial review of his case before the Supreme Court, which remains pending.

    Executed after unfair sham trials

    On 5 December 2022, a Revolutionary Court in Alborz province sentenced Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini to death in a grossly unfair sham trial. They were also convicted of “spreading corruption on earth” (efsad-e fel arz) over the death of a Basij paramilitary agent during a protest on 3 November 2022.

    The court convicted and sentenced them to death less than a week after the trial began on 30 November 2022. Before trial, state media aired their forced “confessions” and described them as “murderers”, violating their right to presumption of innocence. Both were also denied access to lawyers of their own choosing.

    Seyed Mohammad Hosseini subsequently revealed to his lawyer that the authorities forced him to “confess” under torture and other ill-treatment, such as kicking him until he lost consciousness, beating him on the soles of his feet with iron rods, and using electric shocks all over his body.

    Their executions, which took place just two months after their arrests, were each carried out in secret and without prior notice to their lawyers and families.

    Scores of protesters at risk

    Amnesty International fears that scores of others face the death penalty in connection with protests, given that thousands of people have been arbitrarily arrested and indicted since protests erupted. They include Mohammad Boroughani who was sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran for “enmity against God” (moharebeh) in a grossly unfair sham trial. He was convicted for allegedly wielding a machete, setting fire to the governor’s building and injuring a state agent. On 24 December, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence. On 11 January, the Director of Public Relations of Iran’s Supreme Court announced on Twitter that Mohammad Boroughani’s death sentence has been suspended pending the outcome of a judicial review by the Supreme Court. Others at risk also include Arshia Takdestan, Javad Roohi, Mehdi Mohammadi Fard, Manouchehr Mehman Navaz, Saleh Mirhashemi, Saeed Yaghoubi and Majid Kazemi, who have all been convicted and sentenced to death since November.

    Numerous others are either currently on trial or facing charges for crimes that carry the death penalty, including Abolfazl Mehri Hossein Hajilou, Mohsen Rezazadeh Gharagholou, Saeed Shirazi, Akbar Ghafari, Toomaj Salehi, Ebrahim Rigi (Riki), Farzad (Farzin) Tahazadeh and Farhad Tahazadeh, Karwan Shahiparvaneh, Reza Eslamdoost, Hajar Hamidi and Shahram Marouf-Mola.

    Amnesty International is investigating reports of other individuals sentenced to death and/or at risk of the death penalty in relation to the protests. 

    “It is crucial that the international community not only stands with the people in Iran but takes urgent action to hold the Iranian authorities to account. States must exercise universal jurisdiction to criminally investigate all officials reasonably suspected of involvement in crimes under international law and other grave violations of human rights, and issue arrest warrants where there is sufficient evidence,” said Diana Eltahawy.

    Background

    In 2022, the Iranian authorities executed two other men in relation to the nationwide protests. On 8 December 2022, Mohsen Shekari was executed less than three months after his arrest and after being convicted of “enmity against God” in a grossly unfair trial. On 12 December 2022, Majidreza Rahanvard was publicly executed just two weeks after being convicted of “enmity against God” in a grossly unfair trial.

  • Iran: Public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard exposes authorities’ revenge killings


    Amnesty International: December 12, 2022 Responding to the Iranian authorities’ public execution today of Majidreza Rahnavard, a young man sentenced to death, after a sham unfair trial, in connection with ongoing nationwide protests, Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

    “The horrific public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard today exposes Iran’s judiciary for what it is: a tool of repression sending individuals to the gallows to spread fear and exacting revenge on protesters daring to stand up to the status quo. The arbitrary execution of Majidreza Rahnavard less than two weeks after his only court hearing lays bare the extent of the Iranian authorities’ assault on the right to life and their disregard for even maintaining a façade of meaningful judicial proceedings.

    “We urge the international community to take all necessary measures to pressure the Iranian authorities to stop executions and quash death sentences.

    Amnesty International further urges all states to exercise universal jurisdiction over all officials reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and other grave violations of human rights.”

    Background

    Majidreza Rahnavard’s unfair trial consisted of just one session before a ‘Revolutionary Court’ in Mashhad, Khorasan-e Razavi province, on 29 November. He was charged with “enmity against God” (moharebeh).

    The authorities accused him of fatally stabbing two Basij agents in Mashhad on 17 November. Before his court session, state media broadcast videos of Majidreza Rahnavard giving forced “confessions”. His heavily bandaged left arm could be seen in a cast, raising serious concerns that he was subjected to torture.

    Amnesty International has identified 20 people at risk of execution in connection with the protests. They include:

    11 individuals sentenced to death: Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh; Mahan Sadrat (Sedarat) Madani; Manouchehr Mehman Navaz; Mohammad Boroughani; Mohammad Ghobadlou; Saman Seydi (Yasin); Hamid Ghare Hasanlou; Mohammad Mehdi Karami; Sayed Mohammad Hosseini; Hossein Mohammadi; andan unnamed individual in Alborz province.
    Three individuals who have undergone trials on capital charges and who are either at risk of being sentenced to death or may have already been sentenced to death, with no publicly available information on their status:  Saeed Shirazi; Abolfazl Mehri Hossein Hajilou; and Mohsen Rezazadeh Gharegholou.
    Six individuals who may be awaiting or undergoing trial on charges carrying the death penalty: Akbar Ghafari; Toomaj Salehi; Ebarhim Rigi; Amir Nasr Azadani; Saleh Mirhashemi; and Saeed Yaghoubi.

    The horrific public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard today exposes Iran’s judiciary for what it is: a tool of repression sending individuals to the gallows to spread fear…

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International

    Thousands have been arrested and indicted, raising fears that many more people could face the death penalty in connection to protests.

    Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the individual, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

  • Designating Iranian Officials Connected to Serious Human Rights Abuses in Iran’s Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan Provinces


    The United States is gravely concerned by reports that Iranian authorities are escalating violence against peaceful protesters. Today, we are taking additional action as Iranian security forces, including Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces, reportedly are stepping up their violent crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests in Iran’s Kurdistan Province and surrounding areas.

    Specifically, the Department of the Treasury is designating Mohammad Taghi Osanloo, the commander of the IRGC ground forces unit in West Azerbaijan Province in Iran. The Department of the Treasury is also designating Alireza Moradi, the commander of Iranian Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) in the city of Sanandaj who reportedly ordered the mass arrest of protesters. During nationwide protests in November 2019, Moradi authorized the use of lethal weapons against unarmed protesters in Sanandaj. Lastly, the Department of the Treasury is designating Hasan Asgari, the administrator of Sanandaj and a former IRGC commander. Today’s designations were made pursuant to Executive Order 13553.

    The United States continues to support the Iranian people as they protest nationwide. The human rights abuses inflicted by Iran’s government on its people must not go without consequence.

    For more information on today’s action, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.

  • Violence, conflict and unrest robs nearly 580 children of their lives in the Middle East and North Africa since start of year


    AMMAN, 18 November 2022 –UNICEF – November 20th marks World Children’s Day, the annual commemoration of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which provides a universal set of standards to be adhered to by all countries – including the principle of non-discrimination; the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children; the child’s right to express his or her views freely; and, critically, the child’s inherent right to life.

    As this date approaches, children across the Middle East and North Africa Region are facing yet another rise in violence. Since the beginning of this year, nearly 580 children have been killed in conflict or violence across several countries in the region – an average of more than 10 children every week. Many more have been injured. This is an unacceptable reality.

    Children in the region continue to suffer the devastating impact of protracted conflicts, communal violence, explosive ordnance and remnants of war, and political and social unrest that permeate several countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria,  Yemen, and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Just this week, two young girls were found brutally murdered in Al-Hol camp in northern Syria – just the latest act of horrific violence in the camp. In Yemen, whilst an UN-supported truce led to a significant reduction in the intensity of the conflict and the number of victims, the truce expired in October and children continue to come under attack. In Sudan, conflict in Blue Nile and West Kordofan States has once again left children vulnerable and exposed to violence.

    In Iran, UNICEF remains deeply concerned by reports of children being killed, injured, and detained. Despite a lack of official data, since late September an estimated 50 children have reportedly lost their lives in the public unrest in Iran. The latest of such horrible losses was 10-year-old Kiyan who was shot dead while in the car with his family. This is terrifying and must stop.

    Earlier this week, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl was killed near Ramallah, bringing the number of children killed in the State of Palestine to 49 since the start of the year. In Libya, violence in Tripoli earlier in the year killed at least 3 children. Meanwhile in Iraq, the explosive ordnance from previous conflicts continue to put the lives of children at risk, killing and injuring 65 children this year.

    UNICEF is alarmed that children continue to pay a heavy price for violence and conflict. States party to the Convention of the Rights of the Child have the obligation to protect children in situations of conflict and violence and to guarantee their right to life and to freedom of expression.

    The right of children to be protected from violence should be upheld at all times and by all parties to conflicts. Violence is never a solution, and violence against children is never defensible.

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Over the past 33 years, 196 countries have become State Parties to the Convention.

    World Children’s Day is UNICEF’s global day of action for children, by children. Celebrated every year on the 20th November to coincide with the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the day aims to raise awareness and funds for the millions of children that are denied their rights, and to elevate young people’s voices as critical to any discussions about their future.

  • Iran’s protesters escalate measures with attacks targeting regime interests


    Iran’s nationwide uprising is marking its 63rd day on Thursday as people from all walks of life are continuing their protests through strikes, rallies and gatherings, and attacks against the mullahs’ regime in its entirety.

    Protests in Iran have to this day expanded to at least 227 cities. Over 560 people have been killed and more than 30,000 are arrested by the regime’s forces, according to sources of Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The names of 427 killed protesters have been published by the PMOI/MEK. Reports indicate the regime’s security forces killed at least ten protesters on Tuesday, November 15.

    As the regime’s security force apparatus is escalating its deadly crackdown against the Iranian people, protesters are taking their measures to the next level by continuously targeting offices of local representatives of regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, sites of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the paramilitary Basij, attacking security units and forcing them to flee while torching their vehicles and motorcycles. Security buildings in many cities across the country, especially in Kurdish regions, have fallen into the locals’ hands.
    Initial reports on Thursday indicate merchants continuing their strikes for a third consecutive day in Tehran and at least 15 other cities. The famous bazaars of Tehran, Isfahan, and Tabriz are all on strike. Other cities where strikes have been reported include Ilam, Rask, Surak, Qazvin, Bandar Abbas, Gorgan, Kamyaran, Marivan, Javanrud, Ravansar, and Khorramabad.

  • Iran’s security forces have killed at least 82 Baluchi


    Amnesty international: protesters and bystanders in Zahedan, Sistan & Baluchistan province. Those killed include 3 children. “Bloody Friday”, 30 September, marked the deadliest day on record since protests began 3 weeks ago https://amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/10/iran-at-least-82-baluchi-protesters-and-bystanders-killed-in-bloody-crackdown/…

  • Protests Intensify in Iran Over Woman Who Died in Custody


    New York Times: Unrest has spread to dozens of cities, with at least seven people killed, according to witnesses, rights groups and video posted on social media.
    Antigovernment demonstrations in Iran are spreading after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police. Videos shared on social media show Iranians protesting in the face of crackdowns

    By Cora Engelbrecht and Farnaz Fassihi
    Published Sept. 21, 2022Updated Sept. 22, 2022
    Antigovernment protests in Iran over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody are intensifying, and dozens of cities are embroiled in unrest that has been met with a crackdown by the authorities, according to witnesses, videos posted on social media and human rights groups.
    The protests appear to be one of the largest displays of defiance of the Islamic Republic’s rule in years and come as President Ebrahim Raisi is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. They erupted last weekend after the woman, Mahsa Amini, died following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police on an accusation of violating the law on head scarves.
    At least seven protesters had been killed as of Wednesday, according to human rights groups. Protesters have been calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, chanting things like “Mullahs get lost,” “We don’t want an Islamic republic,” and “Death to the supreme leader.” Women have also burned hijabs in protest against the law, which requires all women above the age of puberty to wear a head covering and loose clothing.
    Image

    A picture of Mahsa Amini provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.Credit…Iran Wire

    Mr. Raisi’s government has unleashed a massive deployment of security forces, including riot police officers and the plainclothes Basij militia, to crack down on the protesters. Internet and cell service has been disrupted in neighborhoods where there were protests. Access to Instagram, which has been widely used by the protesters, was also restricted on Wednesday.
    “For security reasons, the relevant authorities may impose certain restrictions on internet speed,” Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, Issa Zarepour, said in a statement.
    The videos posted online and the scale of the response from the authorities are difficult to independently verify, but video and photographs sent by witnesses known to The New York Times were broadly in line with the images being posted widely online, showing protesters, many of them women, facing off against the police, and fires on the streets of Tehran.
    The police shoved protesters to the ground, beating them with batons and firing shots and tear gas in their direction, according to witnesses and some of those videos.
    Ms. Amini’s death has garnered international attention and turned her into a symbol of Iran’s restrictive and violent treatment of women and its repressive policing of the opposition.
    The Iranian authorities say that Ms. Amini died from a heart attack, and have denied accusations that she suffered blows to the head while being taken to a detention facility. Her family, which has not responded to requests for comment from The New York Times, has told news outlets that she was healthy at the time of the arrest.
    The protests that have swept the country are one of the most daring displays of defiance of the government’s religious and social restrictions in years, according to analysts and rights experts.
    “The anger on the streets is palpable,” said Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director at the Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based nonprofit organization, adding that the protests were a “culmination of the past five years where all facets of society — laborers, teachers, retirees, university students and average people everywhere — have been trying to call for an end to the crisis of impunity in Iran despite violent state repression.”
    The demonstrations have largely been spontaneous and leaderless, she said, and had probably been inflamed by the photos and videos circulating across social media showing extraordinary scenes across the country, including women risking arrest by symbolically removing and burning their hijabs in public. Many have rallied on social media with hashtags in Persian referring to the death of Ms. Amini.
    Image
    A police motorcycle burned during a protest in Tehran on Monday, in a photo from the state media.

    A police motorcycle burned during a protest in Tehran on Monday, in a photo from the state media.Credit…West Asia News Agency, via Reuters
    In the city of Kerman, in the southeast, one video showed a woman cutting her hair while sitting on a utility box in front of a roaring crowd. In the south, in the city of Shiraz, another showed an older woman shouting at a security officer, “If you think you are a man, come and kill me.” And one showed university students gathering on campuses in Tehran chanting “Killings after killings, to hell with morality police!”
    “These are all acts that are punishable by law,” Ms. Ramsey said in a phone interview, referring to the videos. “They’re showing a serious challenge to the Islamic Republic in their chants and the amount of people that are in the streets,” she added.
    Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Tehran late Tuesday, setting fire to tires, and shouting “Death to the dictator,” and “Life, liberty and women,” according to a witness.
    Tehran’s governor, Mohsen Mansouri, said on Wednesday that foreign agents had hijacked the demonstrations and were fueling violence in the streets.
    Witnesses said it was clear that the protests were getting broad support from people with a long litany of grievances after struggling under oppressive rules and economic hardship.
    Some Iranian protesters lashed back at security forces, chasing them down the street with rocks. In Isfahan and Tehran, protesters set fire to police cars and motorcycles and in Kerman they encircled a police officer and beat and kicked him to the ground, videos showed.
    At least seven people have been killed in cities in Kurdistan, Ms. Amini’s home province in the northwest of the country, according to Hengaw, a human rights group, which posted names and photos of victims online.
    They were killed by “direct fire by Iranian security forces,” the group said in a statement posted to its website. At least 450 people had been injured and at least 500 were arrested in protests in cities across the Kurdish province, the group said.
    The Iranian media reported that Mr. Raisi, who was scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, told Ms. Amini’s family on Sunday that he had ordered an investigation into her death.
    “Your daughter is like my own daughter, and I feel that this incident happened to one of my loved ones,” he said.
    The protests were not addressed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who gave a speech at an event on Wednesday commemorating veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. In an effort to curb the backlash, a representative of the supreme leader visited Ms. Amini’s family home, according to the state media.
    “All institutions will take action to defend the rights that were violated,” the adviser, Abdolreza Pourzahabi, said in the state media. “As I promised to the family of Ms. Amini, I will also follow up the issue of her death until the final result.”
    Image

    Iranian law requires all women above the age of puberty to wear a head covering and loose clothing.Credit…Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
    On Tuesday, the United Nations acting high commissioner for human rights, Nada Al-Nashif, condemned the “violent response” of the security forces to the protests and called for an independent investigation.
    “The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules,” Ms. Al-Nashif said in a statement.
    President Emmanuel Macron of France, who met Mr. Raisi on Tuesday, told BBC’s Persian news service that the “the credibility of Iran is now at stake regarding the fact that they have to address this issue.”
    The unrest comes at a challenging moment for Ayatollah Khamenei, who recently canceled all meetings and public appearances because of illness, according to four people familiar with his health condition.
    Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East program at Chatham House, a British research institute, said there was little hope that the protests would bring real change on such a foundational issue as long as the supreme leader, who is 83, was still alive.
    “At the end of his life, he’s looking to preserve his legacy and keep the system intact,” she said. “His worldview, shared by those around him, is predicated on the idea that compromise opens the door to further compromise and demonstrates weakness rather than strength.”
    Ms. Vakil said to expect a “coordinated coercive response” from the authorities in the coming days or weeks, one likely to include a further internet slowdown, violence, and more detentions of protesters.
    “They might close the doors, but people will again, find a way to push open windows,” Ms. Vakil said. “And that’s what we keep seeing these continued patterns of protests — because they’re not able to, or not willing to, address popular anger and economic frustration.”

  • Iran: Deadly crackdown on protests against Mahsa Amini’s death in custody needs urgent global action


    Amnesty International: World leaders at the UN General Assembly must support calls for the establishment of an independent international investigative and accountability mechanism to address the prevailing crisis of impunity in Iran. Their urgent need for action was demonstrated most recently by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, and the barrage of gunfire unleashed on protesters which has left at least eight people dead and hundreds injured, Amnesty International said today.

    Iranian security forces are violently quashing largely peaceful protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death on 16 September, days after her violent arrest by the “morality police” for not complying with discriminatory compulsory veiling laws. Amnesty International collected evidence on the security forces’ unlawful use of birdshot and other metal pellets, teargas, water cannon, and beatings with batons to disperse protesters.

    “The global outpouring of rage and empathy over Mahsa Amini’s death must be followed by concrete steps by the international community to tackle the crisis of systemic impunity that has allowed widespread torture, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings by Iranian authorities to continue unabated both behind prison walls and during protests,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    “The Iranian authorities’ latest brutal crackdown on protests coincides with Ebrahim Raisi’s speech at the UN. He has been given a platform on the world stage, despite credible evidence of his involvement in crimes against humanity, in a stark reminder of the devastating impact of the repeated failure of UN member states to tackle impunity for grave crimes in Iran.”

    Amnesty International has recorded the deaths of six men, one woman and one child during protests on 19 and 20 September in the provinces of Kurdistan (4), Kermanshah (2) and West Azerbaijan (2). Of these, at least four died from injuries sustained from security forces firing metal pellets at close range.

    At least two other people have lost sight in one or both eyes. Hundreds more, including children, have sustained painful injuries amounting to torture or other ill-treatment due to the unlawful use of birdshot and other munitions against them.

    Iran’s security forces will continue to feel emboldened to kill or injure protesters and prisoners, including women arrested for defying abusive compulsory veiling laws, if they are not held accountable.

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International
    Shooting to kill and harm

    Amnesty International has gathered eyewitness accounts and analysed images and videos of the protests, which reveal a harrowing pattern of Iranian security forces unlawfully and repeatedly firing metal pellets directly at protesters.

    Eyewitnesses reported that at least three men (Fereydoun Mahmoudi in Saqqez, Kurdistan province; Farjad Darvishi in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province; and an unidentified man in Kermanshah, Kermanshah province) and one woman (Minou Majidi in Kermanshah, Kermanshah province) died from fatal injuries caused by metal pellets during protests on 19 and 20 September. Four other victims, Reza Lotfi and Foad Ghadimi in Dehgolan, Kurdistan province; Mohsen Mohammadi in Divandareh, Kurdistan province; and 16-year-old boy Zakaria Khial in Urumieh were killed. Human rights defenders told Amnesty International that according to their sources on the ground, they were shot by security forces but did not have any additional information on the types of munitions used.

    Authorities have confirmed the death of three people in Kurdistan province on 19 September and two people in Kermanshah province on 20 September, but, consistent with widespread patterns of denial and cover-up, they attributed responsibility for their deaths to “enemies of the [the Islamic Republic]”.

    Consistent eyewitness accounts and video footage leave no doubt that those firing weapons during the protests belonged to Iran’s security forces. Extensive video evidence indicates that protesters in Kermanshah, Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces, where protester deaths were recorded, were mostly peaceful. In some places, some protesters engaged in stone-throwing and damaged police vehicles.* This in no way justifies the use of metal pellets, which is prohibited under all circumstances.

    Horrific injuries inflicted on protesters

    According to a primary source interviewed by Amnesty International, on 16 September, the first day of protests, security forces in Saqqez fired birdshot at 18-year-old Nachirvan Maroufi at a distance of about 10 metres, resulting in him losing sight in his right eye. The source said security forces also fired birdshot at another young man, 22-year-old Parsa Sehat, who consequently lost sight in both eyes.

    On 19 September, mass protests spread from Saqqez to other cities populated by Iran’s oppressed Kurdish minority including Baneh, Dehgolan, Divandareh, Kamyaran, Mahabad, and Sanandaj. Protesters, victims’ relatives, and journalists on the ground told Amnesty International that on that day alone, security forces injured hundreds of men, women, and children by repeatedly firing metal pellets at their heads and chests at close range, indicating intent to cause maximum harm.

    An eyewitness to the crackdown in Kamyaran told Amnesty International: “Riot police were repeatedly firing towards people from about 100 metres away… I myself witnessed at least 10-20 people who were shot with metal pellets… Most of them were injured in their backs as they were running away.”

    A protester from Mahabad described a similar pattern. He said: “In response to people chanting ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ and ‘Death to the Dictator’, security forces fired weapons loaded with metal pellets, often from a distance of about 20-30 meters… They particularly targeted people in their head.”

    A journalist from Baneh similarly told Amnesty International: “Security forces directly shot people in their stomachs and backs at close range… Many of those initially shot at and injured were women because women stood in the front.”

    Eyewitness accounts of the security forces’ extensive use of metal pellets are corroborated by videos and photos reviewed by Amnesty International in which sounds of repeated firing are heard and classic spray patterns of birdshot are seen on injured protesters and bystanders.

    Gruesome images and eyewitness testimonies obtained by Amnesty International further indicate that in Divandareh, Saqqez and Dehgolan, security forces also fired unidentified munition, causing gaping wounds on protesters’ legs, chests and abdomens.

    They include Zana Karimi, a 17-year-old boy who sustained severe leg injuries after being shot in Divandareh, which may require his leg to be amputated and Ehsan Ghafouri who suffered severe kidney injuries after being shot in Dehgolan.

    Amnesty International has learnt that most injured protesters and bystanders are not seeking hospital treatment for fear of arrest, which puts them at risk of infection and other medical complications.

    Security forces violently arrested several hundred demonstrators, including children, both during the protests of 19 September and subsequent raids carried out during the night. An eyewitness reported seeing scores of arrested protesters in Kamyaran with fractured heads, noses or arms and bloodied bodies.

    “Iran’s security forces will continue to feel emboldened to kill or injure protesters and prisoners, including women arrested for defying abusive compulsory veiling laws, if they are not held accountable. With all avenues for accountability closed at the domestic level, the UN Human Rights Council has a duty to send a strong message to the Iranian authorities that those responsible for crimes under international law will not go unpunished,” said Diana Eltahawy.

    Background

    On 13 September 2022, Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran by Iran’s so-called “morality” police, who routinely subject women and girls to arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other ill-treatment for not complying with the country’s discriminatory veiling laws.

    According to eyewitnesses, Mahsa Amini was violently beaten while being forcibly transferred to Vozara detention centre in Tehran. Within hours, she was transferred to Kasra hospital having fallen into a coma. She died three days later. Iranian authorities announced investigations while simultaneously denying any wrongdoing. The promised investigation does not meet the requirements of independence as it is due to be carried out by the Ministry of Interior.

    * End Note – This press release is focused on the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah and West Azerbaijan where protesters were killed. Amnesty International is investigating the crackdown of protests that have taken place in other cities across Iran since 19 September including Hamedan, Rasht, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Tehran.

  • Iran: Leaked documents reveal top-level orders to armed forces to ‘mercilessly confront’ protesters


    Amnesty International: Iran’s highest military body instructed the commanders of armed forces in all provinces to “severely confront” protesters who took to the streets following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police, Amnesty International said today after obtaining leaked official documents which revealed the authorities’ plan to systematically crush the protests at any cost. The crackdown has left at least 52 identified victims dead and hundreds injured to date.

    In a detailed analysis issued today, Amnesty International divulges evidence of the Iranian authorities’ plot to brutally crush the demonstrations by deploying the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij paramilitary force, the Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic of Iran, riot police, and plainclothes security agents. The organization also shares evidence of the widespread use of lethal force and firearms by Iranian security forces who either intended to kill protesters or should have known with a reasonable degree of certainty that their use of firearms would result in deaths.

    “The Iranian authorities knowingly decided to harm or kill people who took to the streets to express their anger at decades of repression and injustice. Amid an epidemic of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in Iran, dozens of men, women and children have been unlawfully killed in the latest round of bloodshed,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    “Without determined collective action by the international community, which needs to go beyond mere statements of condemnation, countless more face being killed, maimed, tortured, sexually assaulted or thrown behind bars solely for their participation in protests. Leaked documents obtained by Amnesty International bring into sharp focus the need for an international independent investigative and accountability mechanism.”

    Based on eyewitness accounts and audio-visual evidence reviewed by Amnesty International, none of the 52 identified victims posed any imminent threat of death or serious injury that could warrant the use of firearms against them.

    State denial and coverup after a week of unlawful killings

    Amnesty International has obtained a leaked copy of an official document which states that, on 21 September 2022, the General Headquarters of Armed Forces issued an order to commanders in all provinces instructing them to “severely confront troublemakers and anti-revolutionaries”. Later that evening, the use of lethal force across the country escalated with dozens of men, women and children killed that night alone.

    The Iranian authorities knowingly decided to harm or kill people who took to the streets to express their anger at decades of repression and injustice.

    Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International
    Another leaked document shows that, on 23 September, the commander of the armed forces in Mazandaran province ordered security forces in all towns and cities in the province to “confront mercilessly, going as far as causing deaths, any unrest by rioters and anti-Revolutionaries”.

    Amnesty International has so far recorded the names of 52 people, including five women and at least five children, killed by Iran’s security forces between 19 September and 25 September. Two thirds of the recorded deaths (at least 34) are from 21 September. The organization believes the real death toll is far higher and is continuing its efforts to identify victims.

    Amnesty International has reviewed photos and videos showing that most victims were killed by security forces firing live ammunition. At least three men and two women were killed due to security forces firing metal pellets at close range, while a 16-year-old girl Sarina Esmailzadeh died after being severely beaten in the head with batons.

    In an attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility for the deaths, the Iranian authorities have shared false narratives about victims, attempting to portray them as “dangerous”, “violent individuals” or claiming that they had been killed by “rioters”. The authorities have been also intimidating and harassing victims’ families into silence or promising them financial compensation if they recorded videos attributing responsibility of their loved ones’ deaths to “rioters” working for “enemies” of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Protesters tortured and otherwise ill-treated

    Amnesty International has documented widespread patterns of torture and other ill-treatment by security forces, including severe beatings of protesters and bystanders. The organization has also documented sexual assault and other forms of gender-based and sexual violence, including cases where security forces grabbed women’s breasts or violently pulled their hair after they removed their headscarves in protest.

    On 28 September, a protester from Esfahan told Amnesty International: “I have seen protesters beaten. The night before, my friends recounted how they saw one woman [protester] was yanked from her hair along the ground. Her clothes were coming off her body and the security forces kept pulling her by the hair…”

    “Two nights ago”, the protester added, “several of my friends were beaten with batons. One of them, who has now got bruises on her forearm and legs, told me that security forces cornered them in an alley and beat them with batons. One member of the security forces then said, ‘let’s also shoot them in the leg’ and another security agent said, ‘no, let’s go’. They are so brutal”.

    Amnesty International has seen footage and reports suggesting that some protesters have engaged in acts of violence. However, Amnesty International stresses that violent acts by a minority of protesters do not justify the use of lethal force.

    According to international human rights law and standards, even if some protesters engage in violence, law enforcement officials must ensure that those who remain peaceful can continue protesting without facing undue interference or intimidation by security forces. Any force used in response to such violence must at all times comply with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality in accordance with international law. Security forces must not use firearms except to defend themselves or others against an imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only when less extreme and harmful means are insufficient to protect life.

  • USCIRF Condemns Crackdown on Religious Minorities in Iran


    Aug 4, 2022
    USCIRF Condemns Crackdown on Religious Minorities in Iran

    Washington, D.C. – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the Iranian government’s increased crackdown on religious minorities in the country.

    In recent weeks, Iran has arrested scores of Baha’is and raided their homes and destroyed Baha’i houses in Mazandaran province. In addition, Iranian authorities have escalated their targeting of women who do not conform to the government’s endorsed version of Islam, arresting those who refuse to wear full religious head coverings and banning them from public facilities. The government has also arrested women who have peacefully protested these religious edicts.

    “Iran’s government cannot create stability and security by targeting vulnerable religious minorities and peaceful dissenters, yet it continues these appalling violations of religious freedom,” said USCIRF Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum. “We urge the U.S. government to forcefully and publicly call out Iranian authorities for persecuting Iran’s Baha’i community and for using religion as the basis to restrict women’s freedom of religion or belief by forcing a religious practice that is a matter of individual choice under international law.”

    The Iranian government considers the Baha’i faith a “deviant sect of Islam” and has targeted the community for decades. Earlier this year, Iran’s courts sentenced Baha’is on spurious national security charges, forcing eight Baha’is to attend “counseling sessions” in prison to pressure them to convert. The Ministry of Intelligence has accused Baha’is of “infiltrating educational environments,” and Iran’s government engages in systematic misinformation campaigns against the Baha’i community.

    In early July, Iran’s government announced a campaign against women not wearing what authorities deem proper religious head coverings. Iran has arrested several women who peacefully protested forced religious dress, and accused others of dancing in public. At the Behesht Zahra cemetery in Tehran, authorities removed 98 headstones depicting women without the religious head covering.

    “The world cannot watch passively as Iran uses religion as a pretext to harm minorities and women,” said USCIRF Commissioner Eric Ueland. “We call on the Biden administration to work with the International Religious Freedom and Belief Alliance to coordinate multilateral pressure on Iran to end its decades-long persecution of Baha’is. Furthermore, Congress should pass H.Res.744 and S.Res.183, bipartisan bills condemning Iran’s persecution of the Baha’i community.”

    In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. USCIRF recently published a country update on religious freedom conditions in Iran so far in 2022, held a hearing on “State-Sanctioned Religious Freedom Violations and Coercion by Saudi Arabia and Iran,” highlighted the situation for religious prisoners of conscience in Iran on an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight Podcast, and published a report on Religious Propaganda in Iran.

    ###

    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov.