Iran: more than 100 protesters killed in petrol price demonstrations

Screenbgrab from a video showing security forces at a protest in Bushehr province on 16 November © Private

Government snipers shooting from rooftops and in at least one case from a helicopter

Security forces taking away dead bodies and injured people from roads and hospitals

Internet shutdown - connectivity to outside world has fallen to 4% of ordinary levels 

‘The authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately’ - Philip Luther

More than 100 protesters in 21 cities in Iran have been killed in protests against petrol price increases, said Amnesty International, after it collated and verified reports coming from the country as well as from informed human rights activists outside Iran. 

Amnesty believes the true death toll may be even higher, with some reports suggesting that 200 people have been killed. Iranian state media have reported only a handful of protester deaths, as well as the deaths of at least four members of the security forces.

Video footage and eyewitness testimony reveal a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by the Iranian security forces, who have used excessive force to crush largely peaceful protests in more than 100 cities since the fuel price protests began at the end of last week.

The security forces have been filmed using firearms, water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters, with security officials also beating demonstrators with batons. Images of bullet casings left on the ground, as well as the high death toll, indicate that security forces have used live ammunition. According to eyewitness accounts - corroborated by video footage reviewed by Amnesty - snipers have also shot into crowds of people from rooftops and, in at least one case, from a helicopter. 

Several eyewitnesses have said that security forces have been taking away dead bodies and injured people from roads and hospitals. In a pattern consistent with past practices, intelligence and security forces have refused to return many of the bodies to families, and in other cases have forced families to hurriedly bury their loved ones without autopsies. 

While most of the demonstrations appear to have been peaceful, as the crackdown by security forces escalated a small number of protesters have turned to stone-throwing and acts of arson. Some protesters have chanted slogans calling for an overhaul of the political system, burning posters of Iran’s current and former supreme leaders.

Iran’s judicial and security bodies have sent mass text messages warning people to stay away from “illegal gatherings” or face legal action. On 16 November, Iran’s interior minister said the authorities would no longer show “tolerance” and “self-control” towards protesters, despite mounting reports of casualties. On 17 November, Iran’s supreme leader described protesters as “villains” who were incited to violence by counter-revolutionaries and foreign enemies of Iran. He ordered the security forces to “implement their duties” to end protests, effectively giving a green light for the brutality to continue. 

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, said: 

“The authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately and show respect for human life.

“Anyone detained solely for peacefully taking part in demonstrations, expressing support for them or criticising the authorities must be immediately and unconditionally released.

“All detainees must be protected from torture and other ill-treatment.

“The frequency and persistence of lethal force used against peaceful protesters in these and previous mass protests, as well as the systematic impunity for security forces who kill protesters, raise serious fears that the intentional lethal use of firearms to crush protests has become a matter of state policy.

“The Iranian authorities must rein in their security forces to prevent further bloodshed. 

“The UN and individual member states must publicly denounce Iran’s bloody crackdown. They should press the Iranian authorities to give access to independent human rights observers to hospitals and detention centres in the country, lift the blocking of the internet and invite UN mandate holders to conduct fact-finding visits.” 

More than 1,000 arrested

State media in Iran have reported that, as of 17 November, more than 1,000 protesters had been arrested since the protests began. Among those detained is human rights defender Sepideh Gholian, who was arrested on 17 November after taking part in the protests by holding up a sign about the petrol prices. Her whereabouts are currently unknown. Amnesty fears she is at risk of torture, given Iran’s appalling record of torturing detained activists. 

Internet shutdown

On 16 November, less than a day after the protests began, the authorities implemented a near-total shutdown of the internet, shutting off nearly all means of online communications inside Iran. According to the NGO NetBlocks, Iran’s connectivity to the outside world has fallen to 4% of ordinary levels since the protests began. All mobile networks have been disconnected and there is a near-total national internet and telecommunication blackout. The resulting information blackout is a deliberate attempt by the authorities to prevent people from sharing images of the deadly force being used by security forces. 

Philip Luther added: 

“Shutting down communications over the internet is a systematic assault on the right to freedom of expression and suggests that the authorities have something to hide.”

City and province breakdown of deaths

Below is a breakdown, by city and province, of the 106 deaths reported so far to Amnesty. Amnesty obtained the information from reports whose credibility and reliability it has ascertained by interviewing journalists and human rights activists involved in gathering them. It has then crosschecked the information. 

Abadan, Khuzestan province: 2
Ahvaz, Khuzestan province: 2
Bandar-e Mahshahr and its suburbs, Khuzestan province: 14
Behbahan, Khuzestan province: 8
Boukan, West Azerbaijan province:  4
Boumehen, Tehran province: 2
Esfahan, Esfahan province: 1
Islamshahr, Tehran province: 1 
Javanroud, Kermanshah province: 14
Karaj, Alborz province: 4 
Kermanshah, Kermanshah province: 16
Khoramshahr, Khorramshahr province: 3
Mariwan, Kurdistan province: 9
Ramhormoz, Khuzestan province: 6
Robatkarim, Tehran province: 4
Sadra, Fars province: 6
Sanandaj, Kurdistan province: 1 
Shahriyar, Tehran Province: 1 
Shiraz, Fars province: 6
Sirjan, Kerman province: 1
Tehran, Tehran province: 1

Amnesty is currently working to verify further reports of killings of protesters throughout Iran.
 

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