Human Rights Watch, which has concluded an investigation into the crackdown on anti-government protesters, says Iranian security forces are killing, torturing and abducting minors. Earlier, the BBC reported that leaked documents reveal how the regime in Tehran punished celebrities who decided to publicly support the protests after the death in custody of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.
The cases investigated by Human Rights Watch (HWR) involved people accused of participating in the protests that have swept through Iran over the death 22-year-old Mahsa Aminiwho was detained by the religious police and died in mysterious circumstances. The demonstrations were suppressed by the police.
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Harassed and detained families
Defense groups human rights 537 fatalities were counted, of which at least 68 were minors. Earlier, HRW reported two 16-year-old girls – Nice Shakarami, whose body was found 10 days after her family disappeared during a demonstration in Tehran, and Sarina Esmailzadeh, who died after being beaten by the police.
In both cases, authorities said the victims died as a result of falling from the building. Their family members were harassed and detained. Authorities silenced the families of the children killed, including those of 15-year-old Asra Panahi, who was beaten at school, 16-year-old Hasti Hossein Panahi, who has been unconscious since being taken from school by the police in November last year, and Kian Pirfalak, 9, who was shot dead .
– Iranian authorities used security forces. Children were tortured and molested. Nor were they spared absurdly unfair trials, said Tara Sepehri Far, an analyst at HRW, in a report published on the organization’s website.
Tied up, beaten, electrocuted
The report shows that minors whose cases the organization investigated were tied up, beaten, electrocuted, sexually assaulted. They were not provided with the necessary medical assistance, their families were not informed about the arrests. A 13-year-old boy had broken ribs, a 17-year-old boy was bleeding from the anus and was covered with bruises. During the arrest of a high school student, she was pushed against a stove so that her clothes caught fire, and she was beaten during interrogation.
Under Iranian law, children can only be questioned by a juvenile prosecutor, and only juvenile courts can try them. Meanwhile, in one of the examined cases (concerning a total of 16 defendants, three of whom were minors), a clergyman who was a judge of a revolutionary court was delegated to judge. None of the defendants could use a lawyer. They were sentenced to 25 years in prison. The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided that the accusation had no evidence, and then sent the case back for reconsideration – by the same judge. He sentenced them again to 3, 5 and 10 years in prison.
“Children have experienced appalling abuse in custody and trials,” said Bill Van Esveld, deputy director of children’s rights at Human Rights Watch. He called for the mission to investigate abuses as a priority UN.
The law of grace
Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei applied clemency to some 300 detained students who were released from prison, but many, according to the country’s law expert Hossein Raeisi, were prevented from returning to school under pressure from the Revolutionary Guards. “For these kids, it’s the end of school and the informal end of the future,” says Raeisi.
HRW reports that families have been stripped of social benefits, another method to force children out of school. Family members were detained, threatened with severe retaliation, and even forced to terminate leases and be evicted.
An attempt to silence celebrities
Meanwhile, BBC Persian has uncovered three classified Iranian documents through a Middle Eastern country intelligence source that reveal how the Tehran government tried to silence celebrities who publicly stood up for the fundamental rights of their fellow citizens and spoke critically of the actions of the Iranian authorities.
To this end, the Iranian regime established the so-called Celebrity Task Force, headed by the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili. This politician was recently sanctioned by the European Union for human rights violations.
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A letter containing the names of 141 famous people
On September 22, 2022, just six days after the outbreak of anti-government protests in Iran, the commission submitted a list to the Ministry of Finance containing the names of 141 high-profile individuals it believes played a significant role in fomenting social unrest in the country. The list included artists, athletes, influencers, including Ali Daei, former Iranian footballer and now team coach Saipa Karaj, and top Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti.
In the letter, the commission asked the ministry to examine the tax returns of the above-mentioned people and take action against them, reports the BBC, which had access to the disclosed documents. The British station reports that over the past seven months, people whose names appeared on the list have been subject to financial sanctions and travel bans, and some have been detained.
The conduct of players before the World Cup in Qatar
In a second document, marked “top secret” and dated September 26, 2022, it was reported that the commission’s responsibilities had been divided. The culture ministry deals with “artists, singers and media personalities”, while the sports ministry and the Revolutionary Guard intelligence agency “take over” the athletes.
The document warns that “any decisions regarding celebrities should be made in a way that minimizes costs and maximizes benefits in fighting riots and adhering to the rules of the regime.”
The letter, signed on November 1, 2022, informed about how to deal with players before the World Cup in Qatar. The document also said the commission was outraged by the “brashness” of actress Fatemeh Motamed-Ary’i and asked the Tehran prosecutor’s office to “promptly prosecute her and make her case a priority.”
Accusation of violence
After Mahsa Amini’s death, her family members accused the police of violence. Iranian authorities claimed she had heart problems that put her in a coma. According to Mahsa’s family, she did not suffer from any cardiac conditions.
The largest number of protests took place in the province of Kurdistan, where the woman came from. Anti-regime slogans appeared among the demonstrators, and some of the protesting women began to burn sharia, i.e. Muslim law, which is prescribed in Iran, scarves or cut their hair.
Main photo source: SalamPix/ABACA/PAP/EPA