World leaders now gathered at the United Nations General Assembly should support calls for independent international investigations to ensure accountability in Iran’s ongoing impunity crisis. The urgency of this is underlined once again by the death of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa (Zeina) Amini, and the violence unleashed by security forces on protesters.
At least eight people were killed as a result of this violence and hundreds of people were injured.
Mahsa (Jina) Amini died on September 16 – Jenna is her Kurdish name, and Kurdish names are banned in Iran. A few days ago, she was forcibly arrested by the “morality police” for allegedly not complying with the mandatory discriminatory hijab laws. Amnesty International has collected evidence of the unlawful use of force by security forces, such as hail, other metal bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons.
“The outrage and sympathy around the world over Mahsa Amini’s death must be followed by concrete steps by the international community to address the crisis of systemic impunity. Impunity continues to cause torture and extrajudicial killings at the hands of the Iranian authorities,” said Diana Eltahawy of Amnesty International. Whether behind prison walls or during protests.
The Iranian authorities’ repression during the demonstrations coincides with President Ebrahim Raisi’s speech at the United Nations. He has been given a platform on the world stage despite abundant evidence of his involvement in crimes against humanity. UN member states have not yet succeeded in addressing impunity for serious crimes in Iran.
Deaths during the protests
Amnesty International has documented the killing of six men, a woman and a child. They were killed during demonstrations on September 19 and 20 in the provinces of Kurdistan (4), Kermanshah (2) and West Azerbaijan (2). At least four of these people died of wounds caused by metal bullets fired at point blank range.
At least two other people lost their sight in one or both eyes. Hundreds more, including children, were injured by the illegal use of cold and other bullets.
Shooting in sharp focus
Amnesty International collected eyewitness testimonies and analyzed photos and videos of the protests. This indicates that Iranian security forces have unlawfully and repeatedly fired metal bullets directly at protesters.
According to eyewitnesses, at least three men (Feridoun Mahmoudi in Saqqaz, Kurdistan, Farjad Darwish in Orumiyeh, West Azerbaijan, and an unknown man in Kermanshah), and a woman (Mino Majidi in Kermanshah) died as a result of fatal injuries from gunfire during the daily demonstrations. 19 and 20 September. Four other victims are Reda Lutfi and Fuad Ghadmi in Dehgolan, Kurdistan. Mohsen Mohammadi in Devandareh, Kurdistan; The 16-year-old Zakaria Khayal was killed in Urmia. According to human rights activists on the spot, they were shot dead by members of the security forces.
Iranian authorities confirmed the killing of three people in the Kurdistan region on September 19 and two people in Kermanshah province on September 20. But, as usual, the authorities often deny their involvement and attribute these deaths to “enemies of the Islamic Republic.”
However, eyewitness accounts and videos undoubtedly show that those who fired during the demonstrations were members of Iran’s security apparatus. It also appears that most of the demonstrators in the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah and West Azerbaijan were peaceful. In some places, protesters threw stones and damaged police cars. But this does not justify the use of lead and it is prohibited under all circumstances.
An important source interviewed by Amnesty International said that on September 16, the first day of the protests, security forces shot 18-year-old Nashirvan Maroufi, from a distance of about 10 metres. As a result, he lost his sight in his right eye. They also shot another young man, aged 22, Parsa Sehat, who went blind in both eyes.
On September 19, the demonstrations spread from Saqqaz to other cities in Iran where many members of the persecuted Kurdish minority live, such as Baneh, Degolan, Devandareh, Kameran, Mahabad and Sanandaj. On that day alone, hundreds of men, women, and children were injured by repeated metal bullets to their heads and chests at close range, indicating that the officers were outside to inflict maximum pain.
An eyewitness from Kamiyaran told Amnesty International: “Riot police kept shooting at people from a distance of about 100 metres…I saw for myself that at least 10-20 people were hit by metal bullets…Most of them were shot in the back while they were running away. .’
A protester from Mahabad described a similar pattern. He said, “In response to people who were chanting slogans like ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ and ‘Death to the Dictator’, the security forces fired metal bullets, often from a distance of 20-30 meters… They were aimed specifically at people’s heads.”
A journalist from Baneh told Amnesty International: “Security forces shot people directly in the abdomen and back at close range…Many of these people were women because women were at the forefront of the protests.”
The horrific images and eyewitness accounts received by Amnesty International also show that security forces fired unidentified munitions in Devandareh, Saqqaz and Degolan. The protesters had open wounds to their legs, chest and abdomen.
Among them is 17-year-old Zana Karimi, who sustained serious injuries to both legs after being shot in Devandarh. His leg may need to be amputated. Ehsan Ghafuri sustained serious kidney injuries after being shot in Dehgolan.
Most protesters and injured bystanders do not go to the hospital for medical care for fear of arrest. This puts them at greater risk of infection and other complications.
Hundreds of protesters were violently arrested, including children. An eyewitness said he saw groups of detainees in Kamiyaran with head injuries, broken noses, arms and bloody bodies.
Iranian security forces will continue to kill or injure protesters and detainees, including women arrested for failing to comply with mandatory body covering laws, if they are not held accountable. This accountability will not come from within the country itself. Diana Eltahawy said that the UN Security Council should send a clear message to the Iranian authorities that those responsible for crimes under international law will not go unpunished.
On September 13, 2022, the so-called Iranian-Kurdish “moral police” arrested Mahsa Amini in Tehran. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice arrests and imprisons women and girls, and tortures and mistreats them for failing to comply with discriminatory hijab laws.
According to eyewitnesses, Mahsa Amini was beaten while forcibly transferred to the Fozara detention center in Tehran. Hours later, she was transferred to Al Kasra Hospital after falling into a coma. She died three days later. The Iranian authorities announced that they would investigate, but at the same time denied any wrongdoing. The promised investigation does not fulfill the independence obligations because it will be conducted by the Ministry of the Interior.
This post focuses on the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah and West Azerbaijan where protesters have been killed. Amnesty International is investigating the crackdown on protests in other cities in Iran since 19 September, such as Hamadan, Rasht, Shiraz, Tabriz and Tehran.