|Countrywide protests in Iran, triggered by the death in custody on September 16, 2022, of 22-year-old Mahsa (Jina) Amini, continue unabated. The severe and violent state crackdown on protesters (with special intensity in Kurdistan and Baluchistan) as well as lawyers, doctors, and political and civil society activists has resulted in the death, injury and arrest of thousands, including children. At least six death sentences have already been issued against protesters. As in past protests, these human rights violations are carried out through a coordinated action of the security and intelligence forces and the judiciary, whose head is selected by the Supreme Leader, also Commander in Chief of the country’s armed forces.
Decades of impunity for human rights violations and lack of significant progress in all bilateral and multilateral efforts have highlighted evident structural obstacles in Iran’s legal framework that prevent independent and impartial investigations and justice for victims of violence. Members of the United Nations’s Human Rights Council must take this into account in their vote on the creation of an effective international investigation mechanism.
Two months after the death of Amini, Iranians continue to take to the streets at great cost to register their opposition to a political system that denies them their fundamental rights. Despite difficult access to information resulting from the mass arrest of political and civil society activists and journalists and regular internet shutdowns, more than 1,000 small and large protests in more than 155 towns and cities have been reported.
Uniformed and plainclothes security forces have been using shotguns and other firearms (disproportionately in minority-inhabited provinces such as Baluchistan and Kurdistan: 94 protesters were reportedly killed in a single day of intense repression in Zahedan.) Tear gas, beatings, mass arrests and violent interrogations have been used to stop the protests and silence and intimidate protestors and other stakeholders. Even opposition groups based in Iraqi Kurdistan have not been spared. According to the latest reports, at least 437 people, including tens of children, have been killed.
Human rights groups estimate that up to 18,000 have been arrested across the country and though many have been conditionally released after interrogation, thousands remain in detention. According to ABC’s research, an unusually high number of women - more than 300 - were among the detainees in cities such as Orumieh and Mashad in the early days of the protests (unpublished testimony from prisoners, Kurdistan Human Rights Network, October 16, 2022.) Detainees, often wounded or badly beaten during arrest, are denied access to phones and medical care and are subjected to hasty and violent interrogations. Many are released while more protesters are taken into custody in a total lack of official transparency, aggravated by the intermittent shutting down of the Internet and filtering of social media applications.
A source with knowledge of Kurdish-inhabited areas told ABC that arrests in those places are so widespread that detention facilities are full, and some detainees are held in uninhabitable basement spaces. Beatings at arrest seem to be the norm. There is also a medical supply crisis in this region, with a lack of surgical stitches and antibiotics necessary for procedures to remove bullets and dress wounds (ABC interview with source with knowledge of Kurdistan, November 16, 2022).