Iran: Thousands arbitrarily detained and at risk of torture in chilling post-protest crackdown
• Thousands arrested including children as young as 15
• Detainees subjected to enforced disappearance and torture
• At least 304 people killed in protests according to credible sources
Iran’s authorities are carrying out a vicious crackdown following the outbreak of nationwide protests on 15 November, arresting thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s ruthless repression, said Amnesty International today.
The organization has carried out interviews with dozens of people inside Iran who described how, in the days and weeks during and following the protests, the Iranian authorities have held detainees incommunicado and subjected them to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment.
At least 304 people were killed and thousands were injured between 15 and 18 November as authorities crushed protests using lethal force, according to credible reports compiled by the organization. The Iranian authorities have refused to announce a figure for those killed.
“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.”
Wave of mass arrests
On 17 November, the third day of protests, state media reported that more than 1,000 protesters had been arrested. On 26 November, 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 23 November after posting a tweet about the near-total internet shutdown imposed by the authorities between 16 November and around 24 November. 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 18 November. 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 centres are now reported to be experiencing severe overcrowding. On 25 November, 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.
At least two people who participated in the protests told Amnesty International they are in hiding fearing for their lives and said many others are in a similar situation.
One person said: “I have been in hiding since I was seen and filmed by the security forces at the protests. They beat me with a baton before I escaped. I am now in hiding with a serious leg injury. I am not safe because they have gone to my house to arrest me. My situation right now is no different to being in prison.”
While some of those arrested have been released, many remain detained incommunicado, denied access to their families and lawyers. A number of families told Amnesty International they are deeply concerned about loved ones who require access to medical treatment, given the authorities’ appalling track record of denying medical care to people in prisons.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Eyewitness accounts and video evidence indicate that some detainees have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including through beatings and floggings. One person said that a family member who was released on bail emerged with bruises and cuts to his face and head and is so traumatized from his experience that he refuses to leave the house.
One video verified and geolocated by the Digital Verification Corps shows handcuffed detainees being taken into the grounds of Mali Abad police station in Shiraz, Fars province, and then beaten, punched and kicked by security forces.
Credible sources have informed Amnesty International that in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, Alborz province, hundreds of detainees, including children, were brought in trucks to the prison. They say that handcuffed and blindfolded detainees have been punched, kicked, flogged and beaten with batons by security forces on a daily basis.
Victims and eyewitnesses have also told Amnesty International that Iranian security forces have raided hospitals and medical centres across the country, arresting injured protesters and transferring them to detention centres, thereby denying them access to potentially life-saving medical care.
One source said that intelligence officials forced managers of a hospital in Khuzestan province to provide them with a list of names of newly admitted patients.
Another man described how he was arrested by plain-clothes officeOpen Graphrs as he was about to be discharged from a hospital in Alborz province after being treated for a gunshot wound to the stomach. He said he saw “many other people with gunshot wounds and other injuries” at the detention centre.
“The authorities have an obligation to protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment. Given the systematic use of torture in Iran, it is crucial that the authorities provide UN officials, mandate holders, and other relevant experts immediate access to detention centres and prisons to conduct fact-finding investigations,” said Philip Luther.
“Without urgent international pressure thousands will remain at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.”
Enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention
In dozens of cases reported to Amnesty International, detainees have had little or no contact with their families since their arrest and some have been held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance, which is a crime under international law.
Relatives have told the organization they have visited police stations, prosecution offices, Revolutionary Courts, prisons and other detention centres to search for loved ones who have been forcibly disappeared but the authorities are refusing to provide them with information.
The mothers of a group of minority rights activists who were arrested during raids in East Azerbaijan province and West Azerbaijan province said the authorities said they had “no intention” to provide them with information. “We can do whatever we want with your children. We can detain them for however long we want, even for 10 years… We will execute them and you will not be able to do anything about it,” one official said.
Those subjected to enforced disappearance include Kurdish labour rights activist Bakhtiar Rahimi, who was arrested at his place of work in Marivan, Kurdistan province, on 27 November. There has been no news of his fate or whereabouts since. This is especially worrying since he suffers from kidney and heart problems and needs daily medication and specialist health care.
“The world must not stand by in silence as the Iranian authorities continue to commit widespread human rights violations in their ruthless bid to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther.
Human Rights Watch
Joint call for the UN Human Rights Council to take urgent action on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the repression of popular protests
The undersigned regional and international civil society organisations call on member states of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently convene a Special Session on the situation of human rights in Iran in order to respond to the unfolding grave human rights crisis born out of the repression of nation-wide protests, which started on 15 November 2019 and continued for at least five days.
Human rights monitors have documented a brutal crackdown in the country since 15 November, including the unlawful use of lethal force against protesters, resulting in at least 304 deaths, based on credible reports received by Amnesty International; the arrests of thousands of protesters, some of whom may face death sentences, others of whom have been forcibly disappeared or otherwise arbitrarily detained and denied access to their families and lawyers of their own choosing. The authorities’ violent repression, including unlawful killings, took place under the cover of a near total shutdown of the global Internet in Iran.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern at reports of ill-treatment and deaths in custody. Iran’s well documented record of denying detainees due process rights from the time of arrest and its failure to uphold fair trial standards, coupled with Iranian officials calling for charges that carry the death penalty against protest “leaders”, create an urgent concern for the fate of those arrested.
The Human Rights Council should respond promptly to this human rights emergency through the convening of a Special Session, in order to mandate an independent inquiry and to call for accountability for the violations of human rights occuring in the framework of the repression of protests, and to fulfil its preventive mandate by preventing further violations of the rights of detainees and others, who are at imminent risk, in line with General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006.
Repression of peaceful protests, including through the massive use of lethal force
Iranian security forces’ horrific killing spree has taken place with complete impunity. From 15 November 2019, they used lethal and excessive force to crush protests that took place in more than 100 cities across Iran and unlawfully killed and injured protesters. The number of people believed to have been killed during the demonstrations has risen to at least 304, based on credible reports received by Amnesty International, though the real death toll is likely to be significantly higher.
Horrific accounts from eyewitnesses and victims’ relatives, information gathered from human rights activists and journalists outside Iran and extensive verified video footage all provide clear evidence that the security forces have used firearms against protesters who posed no imminent threat to life. The scale of lethal force and other unnecessary or excessive force used against unarmed protesters is an escalation of past abusive practices of Iran’s security forces, who have previously unlawfully killed and injured protesters with impunity.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that at least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested.
Within 48 hours of the start of the protests, the authorities implemented a near total shutdown of global Internet communications, cutting off nearly all means of online communications for people inside Iran. The National Information Network, which kept domestic platforms online throughout the shutdown, is known to be monitored by Iranian officials. The resulting information blackout was a deliberate attempt by the authorities to prevent people from sharing images and videos of the deadly force being used by security forces. Shutting down communications over the Internet is a systematic assault on the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media. This has placed barriers to international monitors – including UN human rights experts – and their efforts to document the unfolding situation in the country. To this date, authorities have refused to announce the total number of those killed during the crackdown.
Concerns regarding the situation of prisoners
Amongst the thousands detained since the protests began are journalists, students and human rights defenders. The undersigned organizations are seriously concerned about the fate and whereabouts of the detainees. While some have been released, many of the detainees remain forcibly disappeared or have otherwise been arbitrarily detained and denied access to their families and lawyers of their own choosing. Harrowing reports show that some detainees have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres and prisons. Consistent with past patterns of abuse, the authorities have broadcast the “confessions” of several detainees likely obtained under duress or torture and other ill-treatment.
Various statements by government officials, including by the Supreme Leader and head of judiciary, have called protesters “villains” and “rioters” and associated protesters with foreign powers. The Iranian authorities have also called for the executions of protest “leaders”.
The head of the Public and Revolutionary courts in Tehran has stated that “special branches will be formed in the courts, and with speed and care judicial decision-making will take place” in reference to plans to prosecute protesters who have been arrested, raising concerns that defendants will be tried unfairly by these special courts. Authorities have previously used such special courts to deny defendants’ access to lawyers of their own choosing and the right to appeal.
We regard these statements, along with the mass arrests across the country, as warning signs. They point to the imminent risk of further mass violations of due process and fair trial standards, which would result in yet more cases of arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment and possibly death sentences.
Call for a Special Session
In light of these grave concerns, the undersigned organisations urge the members of the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session of the HRC in order to seize itself of this situation, with the aim of:
• Mandating an independent inquiry into the allegations of grave human rights violations, including unlawful killings, torture and enforced disappearances, that have taken place inside the country since 15 November. The inquiry should report on its findings to the Human Rights Council, and its report should include recommendations on how to ensure Iran upholds its human rights obligations, including in the context of the protests and their aftermath, and on bringing those responsible for serious human rights violations to justice in fair trials;
• Calling on Iran to give full and unrestricted access to those conducting this inquiry, as well as to UN officials, including special procedures mandates, including to places of detention and to monitor trials related to the protests and their aftermath.
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran
AHRAZ – Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran
All Human Rights for All in Iran
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Center for Human Rights in Iran
Centre for Supporters of Human Rights
ECPM – Together against the Death Penalty
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
Human Rights Watch
HRAI – Human Rights Activists in Iran
Iran Human Rights
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
Justice for Iran
Kurdistan Human Rights – Geneva (KMMK-G)
OutRight Action International
Siamak Pourzand Foundation
United for Iran
Iran Human Rights Monitor
Several Children Reported Killed During Iran’s November 2019 Protests
Credible reports say several children are among the protesters shot and killed after protests broke out on November 15 in more than 173 cities across Iran.
Numerous videos share on social media have appear to show Iranian regime’s use of lethal force against protesters during Iran’s November 2019 protests.
More than 450 people, including several children were indiscriminately shot and killed by the IRGC, Bassij, undercover intelligence agents and the police.
At least 4,000 people were shot and injured while more than 10,000 were arrested, many of them after they were shot. The final statistics could be far higher due to a 10-days news blackout imposed by the authorities through internet shutdown.
Nikta Esfandani was shot in the head by security forces on November 16, 2019, on Tehran’s Sattar Khan Ave. The family of Nikta Esfandani looked for her for three days before they could receive her body. Regime’s officials told her family that since she was only 14 and was a kid, they would not ask for the cost of bullets. Born in April 2005, she was buried in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery on November 20, 2019.
17-year-old Mohammad Berihi was shot and killed on November 15, in Ahvaz, the capital city of the oil-rich Khuzestan province, southwest Iran.
17-year-old Sasan Eidi Vand was also shot to death by security forces in Isfahan, central Iran.
17-year-old Amir Hossein Dadvand was shot and killed by the state security forces also in Isfahan.
13-year-old Amir Reza Abdollahi was shot to death on November 19 by the state security forces in Eslamshahr, Tehran. His family resides in Elalamshahr, Tehran Province. They handed over his dead body on November 18 after a 3-day follow-up. Amirreza’s family has been pressured to avoid speaking to the media.His body was handed over on condition that the family bury him in silence.
16-year-old Reza Neisi was shot and killed on November 16 by the state security forces in Ahvaz.
Pezhman (Ali) Qolipour Malati, under 18, was on his way to get his brother a tuxedo for his wedding day when he was shot by security forces in Karaj. His body was laid to rest on November 24 in Langeroud, northern Iran.
Reza Moazami Gudarzi, 18, was returning from a gym when he was shot and killed by the regime’s security forces. Authorities handed his corpse to his family on the condition that they hold his funeral in a distant village. He was buried in a remote village in Borujerd, west of Iran.
18-year-old Pedram Jafari was shot and killed by the regime’s security forces in the city of Karaj near Tehran.
According to Kurdish sources, an unidentified female student was slain in Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan Province. A student who had witnessed the scene, said a female student from Saqqez was hit by a tear gas canister in the abdomen on Sunday night, November 17, 2019, and eventually died.