Iran: thousands arrested after protests

The Iranian authorities refuse to say how many people have been rounded up in the aftermath of the protests © Private

At least 304 people killed during protest crackdown, according to credible sources

Reports of truckloads of blindfolded people taken to prisons, with jails now overflowing with new detainees

Detainees being held in military barracks and schools - numerous reports of torture, with unknown numbers disappeared

State media has called for death penalty to be used against protest ‘leaders’

Authorities have orchestrated ‘a widescale clampdown designed to instil fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened’ - Philip Luther

The Iranian authorities are carrying out a vicious crackdown following the outbreak of nationwide protests last month, with the arrests of thousands of protesters - as well as journalists, human rights defenders, minority rights activists and students, said Amnesty International today.

Several sources told Amnesty that the security forces are still carrying out raids across the country to arrest people at their homes and workplaces. Some of those who participated in the protests told Amnesty they are now in hiding fearing for their lives, with many others said to be in a similar situation. One protester said: 

“I have been in hiding since I was seen and filmed by the security forces at the protests. They beat me with a baton before I escaped. I am now in hiding with a serious leg injury. I am not safe because they have gone to my house to arrest me. My situation right now is no different to being in prison.”

Amnesty has carried out interviews with dozens of people inside Iran who described how, in the weeks during and following the protests, the Iranian authorities have held detainees incommunicado and subjected them to torture and other ill-treatment. Children as young as 15 have been detained alongside adults, including in Fashafouyeh prison in Tehran province, which is notorious for torture. Detainees are also being held in military barracks and schools.

On 17 November, the third day of protests, state media reported that more than 1,000 protesters had been arrested. Nine days later, 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. 

At least 304 people were killed - and thousands injured - between 15 and 18 November, as the authorities crushed protests using lethal force, according to credible reports gathered by Amnesty. The Iranian authorities have refused to announce a figure for those killed. Various government officials, including the Supreme Leader and the head of the judiciary, have labelled protesters “villains” and “rioters”, and associated protesters with foreign powers. State media has called for the death penalty to be used against protest “leaders”.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

“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 widescale clampdown designed to instil fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened.

“Without urgent international pressure, thousands will remain at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

“The international community must take urgent action, including through the UN Human Rights Council holding a special session on Iran to mandate an inquiry into the unlawful killings of protesters, horrifying wave of arrests, and enforced disappearances and torture of detainees, with a view to ensuring accountability.” 

Truckloads of blindfolded detainees arriving in jails 

Credible sources have told Amnesty that in Raja’i Shahr prison in the city of Karaj, hundreds of detainees, including children, were brought in trucks to the jail. 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 that Iranian security forces have raided hospitals and medical centres across the country, arrested injured protesters and taken them to detention centres, even at the risk of denying them access to potentially life-saving medical care. One source said intelligence officials had forced managers of a hospital in Khuzestan province to provide them with a list of names of newly-admitted patients. 

Another man described how he was arrested by plain-clothed officers as he was about to be discharged from a hospital in Alborz province after being treated for a gunshot wound to the stomach. He said he saw “many other people with gunshot wounds and other injuries” at the detention centre. 

Separate eyewitness accounts and video evidence also indicate that some detainees have been subjected to torture, including through beatings and floggings. One person said that a family member who was released on bail emerged with bruises and cuts to his face and head, and is now so traumatised from his experience that he refuses to leave the house. 

One video verified and geolocated by the Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps shows handcuffed detainees being taken into the grounds of Mali Abad police station in the city of Shiraz, and then beaten, punched and kicked by security forces.

Prisons overflowing with new detainees

Some prisons and detention centres are now reported to be experiencing severe overcrowding. On 25 November, the head of the city council of Rey expressed concern to reporters that Fashafouyeh prison is extremely overcrowded and cannot accommodate such large numbers of detainees.

While some of those arrested have been released, many remain detained incommunicado, denied access to their families and lawyers. A number of families told Amnesty they are deeply concerned about loved ones who require access to medical treatment, given the authorities’ appalling track record of denying medical care to people in prisons.

In dozens of cases reported to Amnesty, detainees have had little or no contact with their families since their arrest and some have been held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance. Relatives have told Amnesty 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 and West Azerbaijan provinces, said the authorities told them they had “no intention” of providing them with information. One official said: 

“We can do whatever we want with your children. We can detain them for however long we want, even for ten years ... We will execute them and you will not be able to do anything about it.”

Those subjected to enforced disappearance include Kurdish labour rights activist Bakhtiar Rahimi, arrested at his workplace in the city of Marivan on 27 November. There has been no news of his whereabouts since. This is especially worrying as he suffers from kidney and heart problems, and needs daily medication and specialist healthcare.

Shoot to kill

Video footage verified by Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps, backed up by witness testimony, shows how the Iranian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters posing no imminent risk. The majority of the deaths recorded by Amnesty were the result of gunshots to the head, heart, neck or other vital organs, indicating that the security forces were shooting to kill. The UN says that at least 12 children are among those who were killed. According to Amnesty’s research, these include 15-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah, who was shot in the heart in the city of Shiraz as he passed by the protests on his way home from school, and 17-year-old Alireza Nouri, who was killed in the city of Shahriar.

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