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

Urgent Action Needed to Save the Lives of Political Prisoners

Blog

  • Urgent Action Needed to Save the Lives of Political Prisoners


    By Jubin Katiraie

    The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has called for urgent action to save the lives of three female political prisoners in Qarchak Prison, following a reliable report that they will be killed soon.

    The August 31 report says that Qarchak Prison Warden Mehdi Mohammadi and his deputy Mrs. Mirzaii have paid prisoners convicted of dangerous crimes to attack and murder Zahra Safaei, her daughter Parastoo Mo’ini, and Forough Taghipour, under the guise of a fight, which will throw off the suspicion of deliberate murder.

    The report quoted a Qarchak Prison inmate, who said: “The prison’s chief has hired us to beat these prisoners and get into fights with them. But we do not know why we must do so? These three women are very nice and calm, and they have not hurt anyone.”

    The report explained that Safaei, Mo’ini, and Taghipour were told by Mohammadi not to talk to the other inmates for fear that they would convert people into supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and that the trio often has to go to the workshop to avoid threats and attacks from those hired by Mohammadi.

    Safaei told Qarchak Prison authorities: “We do not have any security here. We do not feel secure at nights in the room and not even when we intend to go to the bathrooms complex.”

    The trio was arrested on February 24 and taken to Ward 209 of Evin Prison, otherwise known as the Ministry of Intelligence Detention Centre, before being banished to Qarchak Prison in April.

    Safaei was previously a political prisoner from 1981 to 1989 and was arrested again in 2006 before being banished to Qazvin Prison in 2009. Her father was executed in 1982 for supporting the MEK.

    On June 3, Safaei was threatened with violence and death by several inmates hired by the Intelligence Ministry. She was then attacked on August 27 by two dangerous criminals, who were sent into her room and struck her on the head and face, before other inmates stopped them.

    The women who attacked her were Zeinab Ghanbarnejad, 44, and Narges Amir Ali, 42, who are both from Tehran and are convicted of theft and drug use.

    It is clear that Safaei, Mo’ini, and Taghipour are in danger. The regime is infamous for using dangerous criminals to murder political prisoners, which is what happened to protester Alireza Shir Mohammad Ali, 21, on June 10, 2019.

  • New Report by Javaid Rehman: Iran’s IRGC, Basij, and Police Opened Deadly Fire on Protesters


    A new report by Javaid Rahman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, reveals other dimensions of the crimes of the Iranian security forces.

    In a new report, the Special Rapporteur revealed that the Iranian government dealt violently with protesters over the high price of gasoline in November 2019, killing hundreds, detaining thousands, torturing them, and imposing harsh sentences. Execution sentences were also handed down by unjust courts.

    “The Special Rapporteur is alarmed by the unprecedented violent crackdown against protesters across the Islamic Republic of Iran in November 2019. Excessive force by State security forces has led to hundreds of deaths and injuries and thousands of arrests.

    “Detained protesters have faced torture and ill-treatment, with some receiving harsh sentences, including the death penalty, after unfair trials. While the Government has created a victim compensation scheme and ordered investigations, those processes lack transparency and independence and are failing to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account. Victims’ families have also reportedly faced harassment by authorities for speaking out.

    “The violent response to the January 2020 protests concerning the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 demonstrated that the Government continues to use excessive force to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

    In the new report to the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations, Rehman stressed that he was “shocked” by the “unprecedented use of excessive and lethal force” against the protesters by the police, the IRGC, and the Basij during the November 2019 protests.

    “The Special Rapporteur expresses his shock at the unprecedented use of excessive and lethal force by State security forces during the November 2019 protests, including by the police, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Basij militia. According to credible sources, at least 304 people, including 23 children and 10 women, were killed between 15 to 19 November 2019 in 37 cities across the Islamic Republic of Iran, although the death toll is believed to be much higher. Most of the deaths were reported in Tehran (130) and Alborz (33) provinces, as well as the majority ethnic minority provinces of Khuzestan (57) and Kermanshah (30).

    “The Special Rapporteur expresses his particular alarm at the reported arbitrary use by security forces of firearms that killed at least 22 boys and 1 girl. On 16 November, 15-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah was shot dead, while returning from school in Sadra, by Basij forces shooting from their building rooftop. A 17-year-old boy, Mohsen Mohammadpour, also died after suffering head injuries during protests in Khorramshahr.

    Mohammad Dastankhah and Mohsen Mohammadpour
    Mohammad Dastankhah and Mohsen Mohammadpour
    “Analysis of nearly half the victims’ corpses reveals they were shot in the head or neck in at least 66 cases and in the chest or heart in at least 46 cases. The pattern of shooting at vital organs, established by eyewitness accounts, video footage, and the documented causes of deaths, demonstrates that security forces were “shooting to kill” or with reckless disregard as to whether their actions caused death.”

    While criticizing the regime’s common yet irresponsible behavior, he said: “The Government denied responsibility for protesters’ deaths, stating that firearms had been used by “rioters” and “agents of foreign enemies” and not State security forces, or, contradictorily, that security forces had used lethal force but that it had been justified as armed protesters had posed a threat to life or property. In its comments, the Government reasserted that law enforcement had exercised “maximum restraint”.

    “Information received disputes those assertions. First, video footage and eyewitness testimonies confirm that police, Basij, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps security forces had been the entities to use firearms on unarmed and peaceful protesters who posed no imminent threat to life. Evidence supporting that finding included accounts that those shooting at protesters had worn security force uniforms, shot from government buildings, and used weapons and equipment associated with security forces. While the Government claimed a “large number” had been killed by non-government-issued weapons, no corroborating evidence was provided.”

    The report was submitted to the Secretary-General on 21 July 2020 for submission to the General Assembly. The UN General Assembly begins on September 15 with the participation of the Heads of State.

    Two days ago, Amnesty International issued a detailed report on the November protests, alleging “rape, enforced disappearances, torture, and other ill-treatment” of protesters over the price of gasoline.

    During the November protests, Iran’s internet was cut off in an unprecedented way, and the means of communication and transmission of news were very limited.

    Summary of Javaid Rehman’s report on the November 2019 protests

    Most of the deaths are related to the two neighboring provinces of Tehran with 130 people and Alborz with 33 people killed.

    Also, in the two minority provinces of Khuzestan with 57 dead and Kermanshah with 30 people, most casualties have been recorded.

    An examination of nearly half of the bodies showed that 66 people had been shot in the head or neck, and 46 had been shot in the heart and chest.

    This shows that the security forces fired with the intention of killing or that the lives and deaths of the people were insignificant to them. The families of the victims have been threatened to keep silent.

  • Iran Political Prisoner’s Daughter Arrested


    By Pooya Stone

    The daughter of an Iranian political prisoner has been arrested on vague charges in order to put pressure on her mother; the Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is already on a hunger strike in Evin Prison.

    Mehraveh Khandan, 20, was arrested in a raid on her home at 11 am on Monday; taken by five Judiciary agents to the Security Courthouse of Evin without explanation.

    Khandan was temporarily released on bail after a few hours, but, this is not the first time she is being subjected to harassment by the regime. She has been banned from leaving the country since she was 12, prevented from visiting her mother under the guise of the misogynous mal-veiling law, and harassed and threatened by Prison authorities when visiting her mother.

    On September 16, 2018, Khandan went to visit her mother, but instead of being allowed to see her mother, she was called before the director of the visiting hall and told to “observe her hijab” or she wouldn’t be allowed in, even though she was dressed the same as on previous occasions.

    Then, Sotoudeh was told that she was not allowed to receive visitors unless she was fully covered, so in protest, she gave up her family visits; refusing to sign a written pledge that she would wear a veil that only showed her face and hands.

    Khandan said: “After waiting in the visitation hall for half an hour, (my mother’s) cellmates told me that when she was asked to sign a pledge to fully observe the hijab, she objected and then protested by refusing to go to visitation, saying that she won’t be making phone calls, either.”

    Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike on August 11 to protest prison authorities’ failure to respond to demands by political prisoners or address the dire conditions in prison during the coronavirus outbreak. She is demanding the release of all political prisoners.

    It is believed that therefore her daughter was arrested; to put pressure on Sotoudeh to end her hunger strike.

    Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, was arrested in September 2018 and jailed for several months; shortly after Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike.

    Sotoudeh was first arrested on June 13, 2018, and has been held on the women’s ward of Evin Prison ever since, charged with “collusion against national security”, “dissemination of falsities”, “distortion of public opinion”, and “insulting the state officials”. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

  • Iran Executes Three Prisoners in Two Days


    By Jubin Katiraie

    The Iranian regime executed three inmates this weekend in a shockingly callous disregard for human life.

    Early on Monday, August 17, they hanged juvenile offender Arsalan Yasini in Urmia, northwest Iran, after moving him to solitary confinement on Sunday. He has been in prison there for a decade. He was just 17 when he was arrested 12 years ago.

    On Sunday, two prisoners were executed in Mashhad Prison, in northeast Iran, and Yasuj Prison, south-central Iran. They were not named, but, according to reports, they had been imprisoned for two and three years, respectively.

    The regime’s courts are well known for their lack of due process and other legal rights that we take for granted, with those arrested often tortured for making false confessions to be televised. An example of this coercion is telling someone that they will be released if they just admit to the crime.

    Amnesty International and other human rights groups have reported that from 2014 until the end of 2017, the regime executed at least 25 people for crimes that they supposedly committed as children. (Supposedly because, as mentioned above, the regime often forces people to confess under duress.) In 2018, the regime executed seven people for crimes that they allegedly committed before they turned 18.

    In related news, the regime transferred political prisoner Abbas Mohammadi, arrested during the December 2017 / January 2018 uprising across Iran, to solitary confinement either late Friday or early Saturday. Mohammadi, who is held in Juy-Abad prison, in Isfahan, central Iran, is believed to be headed for his execution if it has not already taken place in secret.

    Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) Saturday urged international human rights organizations to take action and save his life and get his death sentence revoked.

    Mohammadi and four other protesters, all under 30, were sentenced to two counts of executions on the intentionally vague charge of “enmity against God” and the fake one of “violating others’ rights”. Of course, these five brave souls who were fighting for a Free Iran have all been under incredible interrogation and torture to obtain false confessions, so their convictions are more than doubtful.

    Iran recently executes Mostafa Salehi, who was arrested during the nationwide Iran protests in 2018 in Isfahan. The regime accused him of killing a member of the security forces, despite having any pieces of evidence and repeated denial by Salehi.

  • Iran Human Rights Report: July 2020


    By Pooya Stone

    Following is the excerpt from the monthly summary of the Iran Human Rights Monitor’s report. As always, more information can be found here.

    July 2020 saw the regime violate international norms and laws with its use of the death penalty and torture, as well as suppressing the people as a whole by clamping down on freedom of expression and specifically targeting ethnic and religious minorities.

    Executions

    The regime killed 31 people in July, with at least seven of the prisoners convicted on non-violent crimes like drug-trafficking and political activism, with many of them not able to access a lawyer. The rest of the prisoners were convicted of murder, but it’s important to remember that the regime relies on unfair trials and false confessions extracted under torture to get their convictions.

    On July 15, Amnesty International said: “There has been an alarming escalation in the use of the death penalty against protesters, dissidents, and members of minority groups in Iran.”

    Meanwhile, a total of eight protesters had their death sentences upheld by the Supreme Court, including three men – Amir Hossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saied Tamjidi – whose initial sentence caused outrage on social media and forced the temporary delay of their executions.

    Individual freedoms

    The regime sought to deny the Iranian people their basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, by cracking down on protest.

    In Behbahan, a peaceful protest broke out on July 16, but security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters and arrested at least 50, while three Iranians were sentenced hefty prison terms for setting fire to a poster of dead-Iranian regime terrorist Qasem Soleimani

    Kurdish activist Ahmadreza Haeri was flogged 74 times and began a six-month prison sentence for “spreading propaganda against the state” and “disrupting public order”.

    Political opponents

    The regime increased pressure on political dissidents in several ways, including opening up a new case against prisoner Majid Assadi to avoid releasing him. Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Narges Mohammadi is being denied medical care after showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

    Freedom of religion

    The regime is also systematically violating freedom of religion; particularly when it comes to the Baha’is.

    12 Baha’is were sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison because of their religion, while others face discrimination in employment and education.

    Kiarash Moieni, 19, was told that he could not work at the Shiraz fire department because he was a member of the Baha’I faith, even though he’d finished his training and worked without pay as a volunteer fire-fighter already.

    While 15-year-old Adib Vali, who had received several medals for his achievements, was told by the principal at Salam School, where he had been studying for three years already and was at the top of his class, that he was not allowed to return for the tenth grade.

    A source said that this came after he wrote he was Baha’i on a school form.

  • Iran’s Regime and the Death Sentences of Protesters


    On Thursday, an international campaign forced the Iranian regime to temporarily halt its death sentences for three men who participated in the nationwide Iran protest last November. The sentences had been upheld by the regime’s Supreme Court two days earlier, leading to widespread protests on social media. A Persian hashtag meaning “don’t execute” was reportedly used five million times and gained support people from all walks of life, foreign lawmakers, and international human rights defenders before the judiciary responded to the pressure.

    Yet that response consisted only of a vague statement regarding the possibility of the death sentences being halted. It expressed no actual commitment to justice, and seems tailor-made to deflect some portion of the criticism in hopes of making the issue fade from public awareness. The international community must not allow this to happen. And after more than 40 years of dealing with the same behaviors from the Iranian regime, veteran policymakers should certainly know better than to fall for its schemes.

    The Iranian regime has a very long history of this sort of thing. And unfortunately, because of the appeasement policy, Western governments deliberately closed its eyes on the regime’s human rights violations. Since the 1980s, they have been eager to embrace any of the regime’s so-called “moderate” official or policy. This impulse was on clear display in 2013, when the regime’s apologists portrayed the “selection” of Hassan Rouhani as the regime’s president was as a great opportunity and change.

    Rouhani became the regime’s president amidst a number of high-minded promises regarding freedom for political prisoners, fewer restrictions on media and the internet, and more peaceful relations with the country’s neighbors and adversaries. Now, more than three years after his 2017 “re-selection,” there has been no progress toward any of these supposed goals. In fact, Iran’s human rights situation has arguably gotten worse, especially in the wake of activist uprisings that have normalized the demand for a real alternative to avowed hardliners and faux reformists.

    It goes without saying that the people are unaffected by the judiciary’s statement on recent death sentences. After all, many of them have borne direct witness to the extent of Tehran’s bloodlust where pro-democracy activism is concerned. The regime’s unwillingness to compromise with such activists was apparent during the first uprising at the beginning of 2018, which led to dozens of participants being shot dead and several being tortured to death while detained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    But the brutality became absolutely undeniable less than two years later, with the November uprising that has now been used to justify capital punishment for Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi. They were not the first to be handed such a sentence and they will most likely not be the last. But even if everyone who is currently detained in connection with the uprising is spared from the hangman’s noose, it will have little impact on the final death toll among peaceful protesters. Iran’s leading opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), has reported that 1,500 people were killed, mostly by the IRGC, during just several days’ protests.

    This is another area of the regime’s human rights record in which it is relying heavily upon Western credulity in the face of coordinated disinformation. At the beginning of June, the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee released its first official estimate of the death toll, insisting that only 230 people had died, while shifting the blame on a “third party” who shot and killed many of them. This was a desperate move by the regime, using the COVID-19 pandemic, to downplay its crime and somehow quell the restive Iranian society.

    The 1,500-person estimate of the MEK was ultimately confirmed both by Reuters News Agency and the US State Department. But for more than six months, Tehran simply rejected all foreign and independent estimates, then provided no explanation for why it had taken so long to calculate a lower death toll than those provided by both domestic and foreign sources.

    This penchant for manipulation is something that international community must keep in mind as they consider how to respond to the latest developments in the case of Moradi, Rajabi, and Tamjidi. The same can be said of any other human rights issues that come under international scrutiny in the near future. And there are tremendously many that could.

    There are also larger lessons to be learned, beyond just avoiding the assumption that Tehran is being sincere when it appears to bend to pressure from human rights activists. That assumption is based on a fantasy about the regime’s potential for internal reform, which has been roundly rejected by the Iranian people, especially in the past few years. The Iranian resistance has been warning for years against Western policies that anticipate such reform and provide concessions in hopes of facilitating it.

    Those protesters’ willingness to risk their lives for the democratic cause ought to inspire shame in Western policymakers who seem unwilling to so much as risk the status quo in Iranian relations. As long as they remain so wary of a truly assertive strategy for dealing with Tehran’s abuses, they will only amplify the threats already facing the Iranian people, the organized Resistance movement and the world.

  • Iran Executes Several Prisoners in July


    By Pooya Stone

    The Iranian regime executed two Kurdish prisoners in the central prison of Urmia on Tuesday on the intentionally vague charge of waging war on God (Moharebeh).

    Diako Rasoulzadeh and Saber Sheikh Abdollah were arrested in 2014, subjected to a year of torture by agents in the Intelligence Office of Mahabad, and then sentenced to death by the city’s Revolutionary Court. This verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court.

    Then, following weeks of controversy, the spokesperson for the judiciary announced that the Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentences of three people arrested during the November uprising calling for regime change.

    The political prisoners – Amir Hossein Moradi, 26, Saeed Tamjidi, 28, and Mohammad Rajabi, 26 – were given the death sentence after a long period of being tortured to extract false confessions.

    The judiciary representative also announced the execution of the retired Ministry of Defense employee Reza Askari.

    On July 11, five people were executed in Gohardasht Prison. The regime also executed a 55-year-old man on July 8 because he had drunk alcohol on multiple occasions – a “crime” that never used to involve the death penalty in Iran. Two other prisoners were executed in Gorgan Prison that day.

    The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said: “The crisis-ridden clerical regime, fearing a popular uprising, is desperately trying to prevent the eruption of another uprising by creating an atmosphere of terror, through executing and issuing long-term sentences.”

    NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi urged the United Nations Secretary-General, Security Council, High Commissioner on Human Rights, and Human Rights Council, as well as any other relevant human rights group to take immediate and effective action against the regime for continuing to torture, execute, and arbitrarily arrest people.

    Rajavi tweeted: “I strongly condemn the executions of two Kurdish political prisoners in the Prison of Urmia, and urge the international community to take effective measures against daily executions in Iran by [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei and his executioners.”

    She further stressed that an international delegation must-visit Urmia Prison to investigate the case of the Kurdish political prisoners who were brutally executed in front of regime mercenaries and their families.

    The NCRI wrote: “The regime aims to intimidate the public against participating in the uprising and to also use the mercenaries’ families for repression and espionage… the ruling religious fascism in fear of an eruption of widespread anger continuously sheds blood to forestall its inevitable downfall.

  • Iran Political Prisoner Forced to Watch Executions As Form of Torture


    By Pooya Stone

    Iranian political prisoner Narges Mohammadi has spoken out about the horrific psychological torture that she is suffering in Zanjan Prison, forced to hear and watch the executions of prisoners.

    Mohammadi, the former representative and vice president of the League of Human Rights Defenders in Iran told this to her mother, Ozra Bazargan, during a recent visit and Bazargan has relayed her daughter’s words.

    She said that Mohammadi sounded sad when she spoke to her and confessed that in the early morning of May 21, when she and some other inmates went to exercise, they heard people screaming and sobbing, which is when they discovered that a man was being hung. The screams and cries did not stop until he was brought down. Mohammadi further said that her cellmate was taken to be hanged just a few days ago.

    Mohammadi said: “In 2012, there were more than 15 death row prisoners in our ward. Despite lifting the death penalty for drug-related convicts, there are still women in this ward who are on death row on charges of murder, adultery, etc. I am terrified by the horrific number of executions carried out in a small city like Zanjan. Our society is wounded and in pain. Prisons are like an open wound showing the depth of pain and suffering of our society.”

    She then said that, despite having served 10 of her 16-year prison sentence for peaceful anti-death penalty protests and not being convicted of a crime, the regime had purposefully sent her to prison to “witness every moment [of] the implementation of the death penalties [she] opposes” and that she suffers heavy deprivations and sentences for it.

    In related news, the regime has increased pressure on women under the pretext of enforcing the mandatory Hijab by saying that they will impose new restrictions on drivers and motorcyclists who let their veil slip while they are driving.

    Tehran’s Chief of Police, Hossein Rahimi declared on June 14: Rahimi declared: “The State Security Force (police) in Tehran has received a new mandate to deal with motorcyclists who break the rules. The SSF will deal with offenders during the week, and especially on Thursdays… the Police will not compromise with any immoral behavior.”

    For clarification, the Iranian workweek begins on Saturday, making Thursdays the equivalent of Saturday nights in the West.

    This followed a threat to Iranian women by Ali Zolghadr, the head of Tehran’s Security Police on June 10, who said that drivers who receive a text message about a woman dropping their veil in their car must “immediately report” to a Security Police center, even if the breach took place in another city. If they fail to, their car can be impounded.

  • Iran Human Rights Abuses in May


    By Jubin Katiraie

    At the end of every month, the Iran Human Rights Monitor (HRM) produces a report into the human rights abuses in Iran over that month and then we produce a summary.

    In May, the main human rights concerns were the heightened persecution of political activists, the use of cruel and unusual punishments, and the arresting and detaining of those accused of non-violent crimes during the Coronavirus pandemic, which is more deadly in prisons due to a lack of hygiene and medical care.

    Some non-violent prisoners were temporarily released at the beginning of the pandemic but were rearrested in May, even though the disease is still not under control. Meanwhile, there have been several cases of coronavirus infections and deaths in Iran’s prisons, including the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, Qarchak Prison, Sheiban Prison, Evin Prison, Urmia Central Prison, and Vakilabad Prison.

    Prison sentences

    Numerous activists, lawyers and peaceful protesters were given heavy sentences during May, including:

    Nasrin Javadi, who was arrested at a peaceful International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2019, and sentenced to five years in prison.
    Political prisoner Sakineh Parvaneh was sentenced to five years in prison and a two-year ban on membership in political groups
    Civil activist Jila Makvandi, who was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison.
    Lawyers Payam Derafshan and Farokh Foruzan, who were each sentenced to one year in prison and a two-year ban on practising law
    Political activists Mehdi Sakhi Sakha, Afshin Barzegar Jamshidi, and Majid Zabihi were each sentenced to 4 years and two months in prison
    Political prisoner Rezvaneh Ahmad Khan Beigi was sentenced to six years in prison for participating in the November 2019 protests
    Over 20 people have been given flogging and prison sentences following peaceful protests against the Iranian regime’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January or even for attending memorials of the victims.

    Arrests and Summons

    There has been a new wave of arbitrary arrests in Iran with the regime’s forces cracking down on the Iranian resistance, as well as anyone criticising the regime. They also arrested people who had been given prison sentences, even though sentences should have been suspended until after the pandemic.

    Somayeh Ramooz, a 37-year-old hairdresser, was arrested for her activities on social media and taken to the Bushehr Intelligence Detention Centre
    Award-winning Sharif University of Technology students Ali Younesi and Amir-Hossein Moradi were arrested and held without a word for 26 days, along with 18 other activists
    Kurdish author Mojgan Kavousi was arrested to serve her six years and four months prison sentence for taking part in the November 2019 protests
    Civil rights activist Soheila Hejab was violently arrested after attending her appeals court hearing and taken to Qarchak prison
    Labour activist Hirad Pirbodaghi was summoned to serve a 6-month prison sentence
    Akram Rahimpour, the wife of imprisoned labour rights activist Jafar Azimzadeh, received a summons to appear at the Ministry of Intelligence

  • Iran: Details released of 304 deaths during protests six months after security forces’ killing spree


    20 May 2020, 07:07 UTC
    Amnesty International has released details of the deaths of 304 men, women and children killed by Iran’s security forces during last November’s ruthless crackdown, six months after the protests.

    The organization found that more than 220 of the recorded deaths took place over just two days on 16 and 17 November. New and extensive research has again concluded that the security forces’ use of lethal force against the vast majority of those killed was unlawful.

    The fact that so many people were shot while posing no threat whatsoever shows the sheer ruthlessness of the security forces
    Philip Luther
    In almost all protests that took place between 15 and 19 November, there is no evidence that people were in possession of firearms or that they posed an imminent threat to life that would have warranted the use of lethal force, according to research, including video analysis, conducted by Amnesty International. The organization is aware of two exceptions in one city on 18 November where gunfire was exchanged between protesters and security forces.

    “The fact that so many people were shot while posing no threat whatsoever shows the sheer ruthlessness of the security forces’ unlawful killing spree,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “Six months later, the devastated families of victims continue their struggle for truth and justice while facing intense harassment and intimidation from the authorities.

    “The prevailing impunity afforded to the security forces allows the recurrence of lethal force to crush dissent. In the absence of any meaningful prospect for accountability at the national level, we reiterate our call to members of the UN Human Rights Council to mandate an inquiry into the killings, and identify pathways for truth, justice and reparations.”

    Over the past six months, Amnesty International gathered evidence from videos and photographs, as well as death and burial certificates, accounts from eyewitnesses and victims’ relatives, friends and acquaintances on the ground, and information collected by human rights activists and journalists.

    Shoot-to-kill policy

    Iranian security forces killed the victims in 37 cities in eight provinces across the country, reflecting the widespread nature of the crackdown. The poverty-stricken suburbs around Tehran saw the most killings, with at least 163 deaths recorded. The minority-populated provinces of Khuzestan and Kermanshah, with 57 and 30 deaths respectively, were also badly affected.

    For each of the 304 deaths, Amnesty International has been able to gather credible information indicating the place, circumstances of the deaths recorded, and their exact or approximate date. The victims recorded include 10 women, 236 men and at least 23 children; the sex of the remaining 35 victims remains unknown to Amnesty International. In 239 cases, the victim’s name was identified.

    Amnesty International believes the real number of deaths is higher. The organization is aware of scores of additional cases reported by activists, but assessed that it does not yet have sufficient reliable details to record these possible deaths in its figures.

    According to information gathered by Amnesty International, in all but four cases the victims were shot dead by Iranian security forces – including members of the Revolutionary Guards, paramilitary Basij forces and the police – firing live ammunition, often at the head or torso, indicating that they were shooting to kill.

    Of the remaining four victims, two reportedly suffered fatal head injuries after being beaten by members of the security forces. Another two were recorded as having suffocated from tear gas.

    State denials and cover-up

    Six months after the killings, Iranian authorities have still not issued an official death toll. They have claimed this is due to the time-consuming process of categorizing the victims based on their level of involvement in the protests. Based on this, the authorities will determine whether the victims are designated as “martyrs”, and their families are granted financial compensation and other benefits.

    The Iranian authorities have made a series of false statements or produced propaganda videos on state TV saying most victims were killed by armed “rioters” or “suspicious agents” working for “enemies” of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Amnesty International has documented only two protests that involved gunfire exchanged between armed protesters and security forces. These were in two separate neighbourhoods in Mahshahr, Khuzestan province, and resulted in the death of one Revolutionary Guard official and one police officer.

    Even during these incidents, based on the testimonies of surviving protesters and video footage analysed by Amnesty International, the security forces did not confine their use of lethal force to those posing an imminent threat to life as they also shot at unarmed protesters, killing several people.

    “The state’s refusal to reveal the truth about the death toll, conduct criminal investigations, and hold those responsible for ordering and carrying out these killings to account only adds to the heartache,” said Philip Luther.

    Methodology

    In 127 cases, Amnesty International spoke directly to sources impacted by the deaths, including relatives, neighbours, friends and eyewitnesses. In 127 other cases, it documented the deaths based on information received from human rights activists and journalists based inside or outside Iran. In 34 cases, Amnesty International interviewed medical staff working in facilities where the dead were brought. Amnesty International identified the remaining 16 cases through searching for and locating videos that were broadcast by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting corporation and included interviews with the families of those killed.

    In all cases, Amnesty International took strict measures to prevent duplication of details. This involved crosschecking the cases of reported deaths according to time, location and other unique identifiers, updating its entries based on new verified information, and removing any that could potentially refer to the same person.

    Background

    Protests erupted in Iran on 15 November 2019 following a sudden government announcement about a fuel price hike. During and following the protests between 15 and 19 November, Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained thousands of protesters and subjected many to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials.

    Topics