Thousands detained, at risk of torture in chilling post-protest crackdown in Iran


Following the outbreak of nationwide protests on November 15, Iranian authorities are carrying out a vicious crackdown by 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 Tuesday.

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.

The human rights group 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 November 15 and 18 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)