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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello friends, As the chairman of the board of the US Foundation for Liberty and Human Rights, I am delighted to have the opportunity to briefly talk to you.
I hope that in this worldwide pandemic, you are taking care of yourself and your family by following the health guidelines advised by the health officials. Your safety and health are of paramount importance to us, because you are a member of our great family of freedom-lovers.
This health crisis requires the cooperation and solidarity among all of us so that we can reduce its adverse impact on the people. This is when humanity and care for others could shine. As the renowned Persian poet of the 13th century wrote:
“Human beings are members of a whole;
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain;
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain;
The name of human you cannot retain.”
Here, I would like to thank all of my physician colleagues, dedicated nurses, and first responders who have sacrificed their lives while taking care of patients during these difficult times.
I would like to inform you that a tragedy of magnifiant dimensions is occurring in Iran today due to the mismanagement and corruption of the ruling regime. As of late April, the fatality rate is surpassing 40,000. The Mullahs’ regime was aware of numerous cases of COVID-19 early on, which occurred due to the continuous flights of Revolutionary Guards [IRGC] planes to China. However, the regime in Iran kept the people in dark, because the regime wanted to force people to participate in the sham elections [Feb 21] and ceremonies related to the anniversary of revolution [Feb 11]. Rick Brennan, a director at World Health Organization, who traveled to Iran, said on March 17, 2020, that the actual figures of death from COVID19-19 in Iran are five times higher than the regime’s official figures.
Human rights abuses in Iran continue. According to Amnesty International, the regime has executed three juveniles between April 20 and April 23 and is refusing to release political prisoners who face the risk of contracting the coronavirus. A team of Doctors Without Borders, which had already gone to Iran to set up a field hospital in Iran on March 24, was deported by the regime because the mullahs wanted to hide the actual death toll. According to the April 20, 2020 annual report of Reporters Without Borders, the Iranian regime is ranked 173th among of 180 countries for censoring the news about COVID19.
Meanwhile, many of us have been very active to help out with the crisis. The first initiative that my physician colleagues in Albania and I embarked upon was to set up an online conference for the people inside Iran. We provided people with necessary information to stay healthy and combat Coronavirus pandemic.
Iranian people are aware of the limited resources available to the residents of the Camp in Albania. However, they are grateful that the residents are focused to help the situation in Iran despite the fact we are facing many difficulties in meeting the basic needs of the residents.
In the end, I would like to appeal to you to stay safe and healthy.
Saeid Sajadi, MD
By Jubin Katiraie
More Iranian prisoners killed by security forces in Ahvaz during prison riots over the coronavirus have been named by human rights sources.
Here are the names of some victims:
Sajjad Abiat, who was shot on March 30 in Sepidar Prison and died in hospital on April 15
Seyyed Reza Khorsani (Moghinami), 38
Adel Naseri, 35, who had been acquitted of a murder charge and was awaiting the outcome of the appeal
Majid Qeitasi, 25
Ali Zargani, 21, who was killed on March 30, but his family were not told for 10 days
Mohammad Tamoli, 25, had been serving a seven-year prison term
Iran’s security forces responded to the prisoner’s riots over not being allowed to protect themselves during this coronavirus crisis by firing live ammunition and tear gas at the protesters.
In a desperate attempt to cover up the true death figures, the government has refused to give an accurate death toll, put inaccurate causes of death on death certificates, cut off inmates’ contact with the outside world, and threatened the relatives of those killed against disclosing the true cause of death for their loved ones.
Amnesty International has said that it believes that 36 inmates were killed by the security forces as the authorities tried to suppress the uprisings in at least eight prisons and cited local sources as saying that live ammunition was used against the protesters. They also reported at least one case where a prisoner was beaten to death.
There are also reports that several inmates were wounded by security forces and then denied medical care.
Rupert Colville, the United Nations human rights spokesperson, voiced concern over the injuries and deaths in a virtual briefing from Geneva on April 4.
He said: “As you see in Iran and some other countries, we are seeing riots, prisoners who are afraid, who are distressed at the big loss of contact from family members and so on. So, there are many, many issues surrounding this… We are horrified at the death of a juvenile offender after he was reportedly badly beaten by security officers. Prisoners were protesting at prison conditions and the failure of the authorities to temporarily release them amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Around 36 prisoners in Iran are feared to have been killed by security forces after the use of lethal force to control protests over COVID-19 safety fears, Amnesty International has learned.
In recent days, thousands of prisoners in at least eight prisons around the country have staged protests over fears of contracting the coronavirus, sparking deadly responses from prison officers and security forces.
In several prisons, live ammunition and tear gas were used to suppress protests, killing around 35 prisoners and injuring hundreds of others, according to credible sources. In at least one prison, security forces beat those taking part in the protest action, possibly leading to the death of an inmate.
“It is abhorrent that instead of responding to prisoners’ legitimate demands to be protected from COVID-19, Iranian authorities have yet again resorted to killing people to silence their concerns,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of Middle East and North Africa.
“An independent investigation into the torture and deaths in custody is urgently needed with a view to bringing to justice those found responsible.
“Security forces must be instructed to immediately cease the use of unlawful lethal force, and to refrain from punishing prisoners calling for their right to health.”It is abhorrent that instead of responding to prisoners’ legitimate demands to be protected from COVID-19, Iranian authorities have yet again resorted to killing people to silence their concerns
Amnesty International is also calling on Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held solely for peacefully exercising their rights. Despite some initial releases, the Iranian authorities have failed to release the vast majority of prisoners of conscience, hundreds of whom remain in prison. The authorities should also consider releasing prisoners held in pre-trial detention or those who may be more at risk from the virus.
Prison protests during COVID-19 pandemic
In recent weeks, prisoners and their families have been raising the alarm that the Iranian authorities have failed to sufficiently protect the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Independent media and human rights organizations have reported that inmates from several prisons have tested positive for the virus. Consequently, many prisoners have staged hunger strikes in protest at the authorities’ failure to respond to their demands for releases, testing in prisons, provision of adequate sanitary products and facilities, and the quarantining of prisoners suspected of infection.
Killing of prisoners
On 30 March and 31 March, according to independent sources including prisoners’ families, security forces used excessive force to quell protests in Sepidar prison and Sheiban prison in the city of Ahvaz, Khuzestan province. The head of the police force in Khuzestan province admitted that members of the Revolutionary Guards and the paramilitary Basij force suppressed the protests after some inmates set rubbish bins on fire.
The protests in Sepidar prison appear to have started after authorities reneged on earlier promises to release prisoners who the authorities do not have specific security concerns about as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Numerous videos taken from outside both prisons and shared on social media show smoke rising from the buildings, while sounds of gunfire and screams can be heard.
Reports from families of prisoners, as well as journalists and Ahwazi Arab human rights activists and organizations, suggest that security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to end the protests in Sepidar prison, causing injuries and up to 15 deaths.
Relatives of a prisoner killed in Sepidar prison told Amnesty International, upon condition of anonymity, that several days after the protests, they were called by a member of the police force and instructed to collect the dead body of their loved one. The police claimed he had died from a drug overdose, even though the family insists he had never used drugs. The authorities have refused to provide the family with a death certificate or with any other written confirmation of the cause of death. As the deceased prisoner had no pre-existing medical conditions, his family suspect he died as a result of inhaling tear gas during the protest.
In Sheiban prison, journalists and activists reported that after the unrest was contained by security forces, prisoners who took part in the protests were stripped and beaten in the courtyard of the prison. Around 20 prisoners were killed by security forces, according to reports from prisoners’ families, journalists and Ahwazi Arab human rights activists and organizations.
Minority rights activist Mohammad Ali Amouri and several others were transferred out of Sheiban prison following the unrest and are still being held incommunicado in an unknown location. Amnesty International fears they may be at risk of torture.
Teenager on death row killed
Danial Zeinolabedini, who was on death row for a crime committed when he was under the age of 18, also died under suspicious circumstances in the past week. He had been taking part in the protests in Mahabad prison, West Azerbaijan province, when he was transferred to Mianboad prison in the same province, on 30 March. Danial Zeinolabedini called his family in distress on 31 March to say he had been severely beaten by prison guards and to beg them for help.
On 3 April, his family received a call from the authorities claiming that he had committed suicide and ordering them to collect his body. However, his family has disputed this claim, stating that his lifeless body was covered in bruises and cuts. Amnesty International has reviewed a photograph of Danial Zeinolabedini’s body and believes it shows signs that are consistent with torture.
Death toll for Coronavirus in 231 cities across Iran has risen to 13,000. The number of victims in Alborz is 520, in Gilan 1,300, in Mazandaran 1,030, in Hamadan 290, in Semnan 90, in Khorasan Razavi 1070, in South Khorasan 33, and in Hormozgan 33.
Today a spokesman for the regime’s Health Ministry announced that in the past 24 hours, 3,076 people had been infected to the virus, which is 220 percent more than a week ago today.
Eyewitnesses in the northern city of Babol say the situation in the city and surrounding villages is catastrophic. Several people are dead in every alley and every village. No one is spared from infection. The situation in the mortuaries and cemeteries is terrible. Local authorities are not in their offices and there is no one to respond.
The head of Khomeini hospital in Ardebil was quoted by local television station as saying, “The figures given by the Health Ministry only refer to those who’ve tested positive to the virus. But are we testing all patients? No. The hospital is full, and the medical staff are exhausted now. Nurses and doctors are exhausting themselves so much that I sometimes cry… During the past 24 hours, we have had 290 new Coronavirus patients”.
Nevertheless, Hassan Rouhani, terrified of the prospects of popular uprisings, expressed anger about the disclosure of the scale of the disaster, saying, “Those who are spreading rumors … are close associates of Coronavirus.” Adding to his daily lies, Rouhani claimed, “Our health infrastructure is so robust that we have not only endured the pressure so far but also if the virus spread extends several weeks and reaches its peak, our hospitals, doctors, and nurses are prepared and capable of treating the patients …We are not like those countries where patients have collapsed on hospital floors”!
However, at a conference held at the Ministry of Health, Ali Akbar Haghdoust, head of the Coronavirus’s National Epidemiology Committee, said, “The virus has been creeping and quietly circulating in several cities since early February. Given the current circumstances, it seems that we may be able to relatively control the virus in May… (Though) we have not yet reached a peak in Tehran, … I hope that there will be (hospital) beds available then so that we can manage the crisis.”
Meanwhile, repression and censorship continue nonstop. Today, IRGC Col. Hossein Amirli, the notorious Cyber Police (FATA) deputy commander, said that 998 cases had been summoned, with 974 identified and 316 registered. He also said that 299 people had received telephone warnings and “criminal contents” had been deleted from their accounts.
The situation of prisoners are worsening. Many prisoners have died of Coronavirus, including in Urmia, Great Tehran Penitentiary (Fashafouyeh), Ghezel Hesar, … In recent days, defenseless prisoners in Khorramabad, Aligudarz, Tabriz, and Saqqez had no choice but to rebel. A number of them managed to escape while several were shot and killed by the Revolutionary Guards. The mullahs’ judiciary has intensified its repressive measures in prisons, especially in Fashafouyeh in Tehran, and has denied prisoners fresh air.
On 22 March the official website of the MSF wrote that: “The international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sent a 50-bed inflatable hospital and an emergency team of nine people to Isfahan, the second-worst affected province in Iran, to increase hospital capacity for treating patients critically ill from coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19.”
However, the Iranian government demanded that Doctors Without Borders, who arrived in Isfahan with doctors, medicine and equipment, leave Iran.
While Doctors Without Borders had announced its readiness to build a field hospital in Isfahan, Iranian Ministry of Health officials, despite the initial agreement, eventually rejected their presence in the country.
A spokesman for Isfahan University of Medical Sciences had earlier said: “The Doctors Without Borders is building and launching a field hospital to confronting the coronavirus with a capacity of 47 beds at Amin Hospital in Isfahan metropolitan area.
Julie Reverse MSF’s representative in Iran said: “Iran is by far the hardest-hit country in the region, and Isfahan is the second-worst affected province. We hope our assistance will relieve at least some of the pressure on the local health system.”
Isfahan has the second-highest number of patients infected with the coronavirus after Tehran, the second-highest among provinces in the country, and is in an emergency situation.
In this regard, Alireza Wahabzadeh, an adviser to the Minister of Health in a tweet, wrote: “While thanking Doctors Without Borders, with the implementation of the National Mobilization Plan to confronting the coronavirus and the full utilization of the Armed Forces’ therapeutic capacity, there is no need for hospital beds by external forces. And this presence is rejected.”
The representative of Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in the Kayhan newspaper, Hossein Shariatmadari, after Khamenei’s speech against the US, protested the presence of MSF in Iran.
The Iranian regime is preventing the presence of any foreign aid. The reality is that the numbers and the coronavirus outbreak are much worse than the regime is telling, and the regime is trying to hide it. Because from the first days this regime takes absolutely no responsibility for the outbreak and was even responsible for the outbreak. And to divert the minds of the public opinion from the regime crimes, made a fake enemy like about any other issue in the past 41 years.
Written 24th March 2020
The world is dealing with Coronavirus crisis. The situation in Iran is different in many aspects. It warn that the situation is alarming, catastrophic and is getting worse by the day.
I would like to raise four points and a few steps that should be taken.
First: Casualty Figures
As of yesterday afternoon, according to the information inside Iran more than 9600 Iranians have died as a result of Coronavirus. There is information on fatalities province-by-province and city-by-city, obtained from hospitals, medical centers, and physicians, and from internal reports of the Iranian authorities and entities as well as information in the public domain. Contradictory remarks by some Iranian regime officials have given away the true dimensions of the catastrophe. The trend in Iran is accelerating and is alarming.
Reports from Qom show that, 60 to 70 people are dying of Coronavirus every day, and mortuaries cannot accommodate them. By now more than 1300 people have been died in this province.
In Tehran, at least 1,250 victims were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery by March 18. A large number of Coronavirus victims have been buried ostensibly under other causes. Several workers at the mortuary, including five women, who worked in sections not designated for Coronavirus victims, were infected with the virus. According to our information on 16 to 18 of March each day 310 bodies were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra. A contract to dig 10,000 new graves in the cemetery has recently been signed.
According to our information, more than 100 officials of the regime, including senior clerics, Khamenei’s representatives, Parliament deputies, IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) commanders and senior local officials have died due to COVID-19. In many cases the regime has tried to announce a different cause for the death.
One area of particular concern is the fate of Iranian medical staff, including doctors, and nurses, who lack the most basic needs for their own personal safety. They are taking great risks working in hospitals trying to help the victims of Coronavirus. So far, more than 100 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have lost their lives in their endeavors.
Iran is the only country where the regime has gone out of its way to cover up the real scope of the crisis and has deployed all security forces and specifically the IRGC to punish anyone who talks about the real scope of the crisis. To prevent actual death toll from leaking, the regime’s Prosecutor General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri warned in a statement: “Any comments (regarding Coronavirus) outside the approved channels are a breach of national security and the nation’s interests.” Montazeri added that releasing Coronavirus-related statistics is “a criminal act punishable by law” with “severe consequences”. The regime has even announced that scores of people have been arrested for providing information on social media on real scope of victims.
The IRGC’s has ordered all provincial IRGC divisions and headquarters to be present at hospitals and medical and health centers to control reporting on the number of patients infected or died due to the virus.
Second: Reasons for spread of crisis
The main reason for the rapid spread of Coronavirus on such a wide scale is due to the Iranian regime’s political considerations and lack of timely attempt to alert the public, coupled with their incompetence in handling the crisis. We have clear evidence that the regime was aware of the spread of the virus to Iran and that several people had died after being infected a month before, but kept it a secret. Because of the staged managed February 11 anniversary of the revolution and for the sham parliamentary elections on February 21, Khamenei explicitly prohibited them from making the announcement. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a press conference on February 23th that while some people had recommended that the regime postpone Parliamentary elections, “but as the official in charge, I did not accept any of these (recommendations).”
Despite repeated warnings, Mahan Air, owned by the IRGC, continued passenger flights to China until into March. Tehran’s lack of proper response and a failure to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the Coronavirus infection, has caused the spread of Covid19 to at least 16 other countries.
Third: Regime reactions
While other countries around the world are compensating workers and employees so that they can stay at home, Hassan Rouhani shamelessly said on March 21, “It’s the counter-revolutionaries’ conspiracy to shut down businesses and economic activity in Iran. We must not let this happen; we must all work within the framework of health protocols.” He had previously said that Iran has no plans to quarantine any cities.
Sadly, the regime is trying to exploit the catastrophe politically and blame the crisis on other issues including the US sanctions. Yesterday, Khamenei said there is a possibility that the US may have produced the virus for Iran, this reflects the regime mortal deadlock and its fear of popular uprising. Khamenei is trying to cover up the regime’s incompetence in dealing with the virus and divert the Iranian people’s anger and hatred towards the U.S.
In reality no one but the regime is responsible for the crisis.
- For years, the priority of the Iranian regime has been suppressing the Iranian people, sponsoring terrorism and belligerence in the region, instead of their welfare and basic needs, such as medical facilities and hospitals.
- Due to hoarding and mismanagement, hospitals lack basic supplies and required equipment and facilities to counter this catastrophe. Priorities in all cases are given to political considerations rather than professional medical advice. Medical facilities are exclusively controlled by the IRGC. Ordinary patients are deprived of basic needs, such as masks and disinfectant liquids; the IRGC sells them on the black market at 10 times the actual price.
- The institutions under the control of the IRGC or Khamenei’s office possess massive assets and facilities. Even a small portion of them could pay for the costs of confronting Coronavirus, including paying salaries of workers and employees.
Fourth: Crisis in Prisons:
One area of concern is the situation of prisoners, in particular political prisoners. Based on scores of eyewitness reports from all major prisons in Iran, prisoners are in great danger. Their plight must be addressed immediately. Prisoners are deprived of sanitary masks and even disinfectants.
The Prison of Great Tehran with at least 15,000 inmates is in a very dangerous situation. A number of prisoners in Ghezel-Hesar Prison, 50 Kilometers West of Tehran, which has at least 10,000 prisoners have contracted virus and some of them have died.
In the notorious Evin prison in north Tehran, inmates infected with Coronavirus have been seen. A prisoner died due to Coronavirus. The situation in prisons is so grave that in two prisons in Khorramabad and Aligoodarz in western Iran rebelled to escape from the prisons. Scores of them were killed by the IRGC.
- All over the world, governments are going out of their way to alleviate the suffering of the people in combating the Coronavirus and its dire consequences. Iran is the only country where the regime and the people are on two different sides. The regime’s efforts are aimed at covering up the actual figures and dealing with political consequences, namely thwarting any expression of outrage by the public against the manner in which the regime has been handling the virus. This has contributed significantly to people’s dire predicament and hardships at these difficult times.
- The catastrophe in Iran is an immediate, pressing issue that has not been limited to the Iranian borders and has also spread the countries in the region. The international community in general and the UN Security Council in particular should compel the regime:
- to make public all facts and figures regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran and provide them to relevant international organizations in order to save the lives of the people of Iran and other countries in the region.
- There should be immediate action to release all prisoners, particular political prisoners to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
- All assistance to Iran should be sent and distributed directly by the international agencies. Otherwise, they will be stolen by the regime.
An investigation by Amnesty International has uncovered evidence that at least 23 children were killed by Iranian security forces in the nationwide protests in November last year.
At least 22 of the children were shot dead by Iranian security forces unlawfully firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters and bystanders, according to the findings.
The children killed include 22 boys, aged between 12 and 17, and a girl reportedly aged between eight and 12. Details of their deaths are included in a new Amnesty International briefing, ‘They shot our children’ – Killings of minors in Iran’s November 2019 protests.
“In recent months an increasingly gruesome picture has emerged of the extent to which Iranian security forces unlawfully used lethal force to crush last year’s nationwide protests. However, it is still devastating to learn that the number of children who fell victim to this brutality is so shockingly high,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.There must be independent and impartial investigations into these killings, and those suspected of ordering and carrying them out must be prosecuted in fair trials
“There must be independent and impartial investigations into these killings, and those suspected of ordering and carrying them out must be prosecuted in fair trials.”
Amnesty International has 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 gathered from human rights activists and journalists.
In 10 cases, Amnesty International learned from the description of injuries on the death or burial certificates it reviewed, or information from credible sources, that the deaths occurred as a result of gunshots to the head or torso – indicating that the security forces were shooting to kill.
In two of the cases, burial certificates set out in detail the devastating impact on the children’s bodies. One cited injuries including bleeding, a crushed brain and a shattered skull. The other indicated that the cause of the death was extensive internal bleeding, and a pierced heart and lung.
In one child’s case, there are conflicting reports on the cause of death, with one referring to fatal head injuries sustained by beatings by security forces and another referring to the firing of metal pellets at the victim’s face from a close distance.
Twelve of the 23 deaths recorded by Amnesty International took place on 16 November, a further eight on 17 November, and three on 18 November. The protests started on 15 November.
The 23 children are recorded as having been killed in 13 cities in six provinces across the country (Esfahan, Fars, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Tehran), reflecting the widespread nature of the bloody crackdown.
“The fact that the vast majority of the children’s deaths took place over just two days is further evidence that Iranian security forces went on a killing spree to quash dissent at any cost,” said Philip Luther.
“As the Iranian authorities have refused to open independent, impartial and effective investigations, it is imperative that member states of the UN Human Rights Council mandate an inquiry into the killings of protesters and bystanders, including these children, in the November protests.”
On 25 February, Amnesty International wrote to Iran’s Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to provide him with the list of the names of the 23 children recorded as killed, along with their ages and places of death, and to seek the authorities’ comments on the circumstances of their death. As of 3 March, the organization had received no response.
State cover-up and harassment
Amnesty International spoke to relatives of some the children killed who described being subjected to harassment and intimidation, including surveillance and interrogations by intelligence and security officials. At least one family received veiled death threats against their surviving children, and were warned that “something horrible” would also happen to them if they spoke out.
This corresponds with a broader issue where families of those killed in protests are being intimidated by the state from talking openly about their deaths. Most have reported being forced to sign undertakings that they would not speak to the media, and observe restrictions on how they commemorate their loved ones in order to be able to receive their bodies. In many cases, security and intelligence officials have placed the families under surveillance, and attended their funeral and memorial ceremonies in order to ensure that the restrictions are observed.
Families of children killed also reported being forced to bury them quickly in the presence of security and intelligence officials, thereby preventing them from seeking an independent autopsy. Such conduct appears aimed at suppressing incriminating evidence.
In general, Amnesty International’s research has found that the families of those killed in protests have been consistently excluded from autopsies undertaken by the state forensic institute and denied access to information on the circumstances of their deaths, including details of the ammunition that killed them and the weapon that fired it.
In some cases, officials washed and prepared the bodies of victims for burial without notifying their families and then handed them the bodies, wrapped in shrouds, just minutes before the scheduled burial. Amnesty International understands that in these cases, security and intelligence officials generally sought to prevent families from pulling back the shrouds to see the bodies of their loved ones. As a result, some families say they were not able to see the impact of injuries.
In other cases, authorities have also refused to hand over the belongings of the victims to their relatives, including their phones, raising suspicions that they worried these contained evidence of unlawful actions by the state.As if the loss of their loved ones was not cruel enough an experience to bear, families of children killed during the protests are facing a ruthless campaign of harassment to intimidate them from speaking out
“As if the loss of their loved ones was not cruel enough an experience to bear, families of children killed during the protests are facing a ruthless campaign of harassment to intimidate them from speaking out,” said Philip Luther.
“The authorities also seem to be desperate to prevent bereaved relatives finding out the full truth about the killings, and getting hold of evidence that would incriminate those responsible. This bears all the hallmarks of a state cover-up.”
Protests erupted in Iran on 15 November 2019 following a sudden government announcement about a fuel price hike. According to credible reports compiled by Amnesty International, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between 15 and 18 November as authorities crushed the protests using lethal force. During and following the protests, the Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained thousands of detainees and subjected some to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment.