Thousands arbitrarily detained in Iran may face torture in chilling post-protest crackdown – Amnesty Updated for 2021

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Updated: March 2, 2021

Iran’s authorities are carrying out a vicious crackdown following the outbreak of nationwide protests on November 15, arresting thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s ruthless repression, Amnesty International said on Monday.

At least 304 people were killed and thousands were injured between November 15 and 18 as authorities crushed protests using lethal force, according to credible reports compiled by the Amnesty. The Iranian authorities have refused to announce a figure for those killed.

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“Harrowing testimony from eyewitnesses suggests that, almost immediately after the Iranian authorities massacred hundreds of those participating in nationwide protests, they went on to orchestrate a wide-scale clampdown designed to instil fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.

Video footage verified by Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps, backed up by witness testimony, shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protesters who did not pose any imminent risk. The majority of the deaths that the organization has recorded occurred as a result of gunshots to the head, heart, neck and other vital organs indicating that the security forces were shooting to kill.

The UN has stated that it has information suggesting that at least 12 children are among those killed. According to Amnesty International’s research, they include 15-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah, who was shot in the heart in Shiraz, Fars province, as he passed by the protests on his way home from school, and 17-year-old Alireza Nouri, who was killed in Shahriar, Tehran province.

“Instead of continuing with this brutal campaign of repression, the Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily detained,” said Philip Luther.

“The international community must take urgent action, including through the UN Human Rights Council holding a special session on Iran to mandate an inquiry into the unlawful killings of protesters, horrifying wave of arrests, enforced disappearances and torture of detainees, with a view to ensuring accountability.”

On November 17, the third day of protests, state media reported that more than 1,000 protesters had been arrested. On November 26, Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a spokesperson for Iran’s parliamentary committee for national security and foreign policy, said 7,000 people had been arrested. The authorities have yet to provide an official figure.

Several sources independently told Amnesty International that security forces are still carrying out raids across the country to arrest people in their homes and places of work.

Children as young as 15 have been detained alongside adults, including in Fashafouyeh prison, Tehran province, which is notorious for torture and other ill-treatment. Other places where detainees have been held are military barracks and schools.

Various government officials, including the Supreme Leader and the head of the judiciary, have labelled protesters as “villains” and “rioters” and associated protesters with foreign powers. State media has called for the death penalty to be used against protest “leaders”.

Also being targeted for arbitrary arrest and detention are journalists, students and human rights defenders, including minority rights and labour rights activists, and people from ethnic minority groups.

Journalist Mohammad Massa’ed was arrested on November 23 after posting a tweet about the near-total internet shutdown imposed by the authorities between November 16 and around November 24. He was released on bail several days later.

Activist Soha Mortezaei was one of dozens of students arrested during a protest at Tehran University on November 18. She has been detained without access to her lawyer or family since. Security officials based in the university had previously threatened to torture her with electric shocks and detain her in a mental hospital.

Minority rights activists arrested include Akbar Mohajeri, Ayoub Shiri, Davoud Shiri, Babak Hosseini Moghadam, Mohammad Mahmoudi, Shahin Barzegar and Yashar Piri who were all arrested in their places of work in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province.

Some prisons and detention centers are now reported to be experiencing severe overcrowding. On November 25, the head of the city council of Rey in Tehran province expressed concern to reporters that Fashafouyeh prison is extremely overcrowded and has neither the capacity nor the facilities to accommodate such large numbers of detainees.

The United States and other countries have been blamed for the nationwide protests. The advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, Philippe Nassif said:

“Though Iranian authorities have been asserting that the recent protests in Iran are the result of government opponents abroad in countries like the United States, the responsibility for the harsh crackdown lies with the Iranian authorities themselves who have engaged in a deliberate, calculated and deadly suppression.

“The people of Iran have a fundamental right to protest with the Iranian authorities have used lethal and excessive force, resulting in at least 304 deaths and many injuries. Those arbitrarily arrested during the recent protests join the hundreds of civil society activists—including human rights defenders, lawyers, women’s rights activists, labor rights activists, death penalty abolitionists, minority rights advocates, and environmental activists who have been imprisoned solely for exercising their right to peacefully express their viewpoint.”

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