Hold the Iranian regime accountable for human rights violations
The Iranian regime shows no sign of backing down on its lethal crackdown on protesters. Instead, the regime appears to believe that employing more brutal force is the only approach to silence demonstrators.
The continuation of protests against the Iranian rulers has called into question the legitimacy of the regime and challenged its hold on power. Nevertheless, it seems that from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, protests are a good opportunity to unleash a sweeping crackdown on their opponents. For example, during the 2018 protests, more than 7,000 people were arrested, and soon after the regime silenced the protesters with brute force.
One of the most egregious human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities is the targeting of children and unarmed university students who voice their opposition to the theocratic establishment. As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk recently pointed out: “I’m alarmed by reports that even children suspected of having participated in protests are being arrested at school, hundreds of university students have been summoned for questioning, threatened or suspended in part from entering university campuses. I urge those holding power in Iran to fully respect the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly. No society can be calcified or fossilized as it may stand at a single point in time. To attempt to do so, against the will of its people, is futile.” He added: “We have received reports that injured protesters fear going to the hospital for risk of being arrested by security forces.”
Many people in Iran are calling the government the “child-killing regime” or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei the “Child-Killing Khamenei.” So far, 35 children killed by the Iranian regime’s security forces have been identified, including a two-year-old boy in Zahedan, Kian Pirfalak, a 10-year-old boy, and two teenage girls, Nika Shakamari and Sarina Esmailzadeh, who were reportedly beaten to death by the regime’s security forces for protesting.
Human rights activists in Iran have reported that 46 boys and 12 girls under 18 have so far been killed. Amnesty International posted in a tweet: “As the world’s attention is turned to the #ENGIRN game, let’s remember the faces of children killed by Iran’s security forces during the popular uprising since September. Let’s use #WorldCup2022 to amplify the voices from Iran calling for a better future.”
The regime is ratcheting up its arrests as nearly 14,000 people, including children, have so far been detained.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The regime’s security forces have also been resorting to rape and sexual assaults to quell protesters, particularly women. As the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” continues to reverberate across the nation, female detainees have reported rape and sexual assaults while in the custody of the regime’s security forces. Several medical staff have leaked information about such rapes. A member of the medical staff wrote in one of the messages to CNN about one of the female detainees: “When she first came in, (the officers) said she was hemorrhaging from her rectum ... due to repeated rape. The plainclothes men insisted that the doctor write it as rape prior to arrest ... After the truth became obvious to all, they changed the whole script ... To make it short, they screwed up ... They screwed up and they don’t know how to put it together again.”
The Iranian regime has kept many families in the dark about their loved ones who have been arrested. Iranian leaders continue to decline to report on exactly how many people have been arrested and killed during these protests. This is a classic strategy employed by the authorities to hide the scope of the crackdown and to impose fear on society.
The regime is ratcheting up its arrests as nearly 14,000 people, including children, have so far been detained. It is worth noting that 227 lawmakers from Iran’s 290-seat parliament voted for using capital punishment, the death penalty, against protesters. The lawmakers wrote in a statement: “We ask the judiciary to deal decisively with the perpetrators of these crimes and with all those who assisted in the crimes and provoked rioters.”
This is a regime known for committing the 1988 massacre — cleansing prisons of thousands of dissidents and opposition activists, and carrying out mass secret executions and dumping bodies in unmarked mass graves. Ultimately, an estimated 30,000 people lost their lives in that brutal massacre. Amnesty International released a comprehensive report on the slaughter. The 200-page report says that the disappeared “were mostly young men and women, some just teenagers, unjustly imprisoned because of their political opinions and nonviolent political activities.”
It is critical that the international community hold the Iranian regime accountable for its crimes against humanity and egregious human rights violations — especially against children and women.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.