Iran’s Crackdown on Protesters and Human Rights Activists: A Disturbing Reality
Iran has come under scrutiny once again for its crackdown on protesters, unlawful detention of human rights activists, and an alarming number of executions. The United Nations (UN) independent investigator on human rights in the Islamic Republic, Javaid Rehman, recently released a report highlighting these grave concerns.
Excessive Use of Force and Unlawful Detentions
Rehman’s report sheds light on the excessive and lethal use of force by Iranian authorities in response to nationwide protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022. Amini, a 22-year-old member of the Kurdish minority, was arrested for wearing an “improper hijab.” The report reveals that at least 537 people, including 68 children and 48 women, lost their lives during the protests, with hundreds more injured and thousands arrested or detained.
Rehman expresses disappointment that Iran has failed to conduct an independent and transparent investigation into Amini’s death and the unlawful use of force against protesters. He calls on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the country’s government, judiciary, and parliament to accept full responsibility for Amini’s death and take immediate remedial actions.
Targeting Human Rights Defenders
The aftermath of the protests saw the arrest of 576 civil rights activists, including teachers and advocates from labor unions and minority groups. Rehman emphasizes that these arrests and attacks aim to punish and silence human rights defenders and civil rights activists, particularly those advocating for women’s rights and demanding accountability for Amini’s death. Notably, human rights defender Narges Mohammadi remains imprisoned, serving a 16-year sentence.
Threats Against Journalists and Independent Reporting
Rehman’s report also highlights significant reports of arrests and threats against journalists who engage in independent reporting, particularly regarding the protests. As of July, 21 journalists, including Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, remained jailed on charges such as collaborating with the hostile American government and colluding against national security. These charges carry severe sentences, including the possibility of the death penalty.
Suspected Poisonings in Girls’ Schools
Another alarming issue raised in the report is the suspected poisonings in girls’ schools across Iran. Rehman expresses concern over the timing of these incidents, which began shortly after the nationwide protests. Since November 2022, there have been 78 targeted poison attacks reported in over 100 girls’ schools, affecting more than 13,000 students, mostly girls. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and numbness in limbs. Many parents have withdrawn their daughters from school due to fear of these attacks.
Increase in Executions and Violation of Fair Trial Rights
Rehman reports an alarming increase in the number of executions in Iran, with at least 582 executions in 2022, including 256 for drug-related offenses. As of July 31, 2023, 419 people had reportedly been executed this year, with at least 239 for drug-related offenses. Disturbingly, since the protests began, seven individuals have been executed for their involvement. Rehman raises concerns about confessions extracted through torture and violations of fair trial rights in these cases, viewing the executions as a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The UN report by Javaid Rehman paints a grim picture of Iran’s human rights situation. The excessive use of force against protesters, unlawful detentions of human rights activists, threats against journalists, suspected poisonings in girls’ schools, and the alarming increase in executions are deeply concerning. It is crucial for Iran’s supreme leader, government, judiciary, and parliament to take immediate action to address these issues, conduct independent investigations, and ensure accountability for human rights violations. The international community must also continue to pressure Iran to uphold its human rights obligations and protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.