JEDDAH: Iranian security forces have killed at least 448 people in a crackdown on protests that began in mid-September, over half in ethnic minority regions, a rights group said on Tuesday.
Of the 448 people confirmed to have been killed, 60 were children aged under 18, including nine girls, and 29 women, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group said.
It said 16 people were killed by security forces in the past week alone, of whom 12 were slain in Kurdish-populated areas where protests have been particularly intense.
The toll has also risen after the deaths of people killed in previous weeks were verified and included, it added. The toll only includes citizens killed in the crackdown and not members of the security forces.
Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajjizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier on Tuesday said more than 300 people had been killed, the first time the authorities have acknowledged such a figure.
The UN Rights Council last week voted to establish a high-level fact-finding mission to probe the crackdown in a move angrily rejected by Iran. “Islamic republic authorities know full well that if they cooperate with the UN fact-finding mission, an even wider scale of their crimes will be revealed,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “That’s why their non-cooperation is predictable,” he added.
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Amiry-Moghaddam said more than half the deaths were recorded in regions populated by the Sunni Baluch or Kurdish ethnic minorities.
The most deaths were in the southeastern region Sistan-Baluchistan where 128 people were killed after protests which had a separate spark but have fed into the nationwide anger, IHR said.
Meanwhile, a UN-appointed independent expert on Iran voiced concern that the repression of protesters was intensifying, with authorities launching a “campaign” of sentencing them to death.
“I’m afraid that the Iranian regime will react violently to the Human Rights Council resolution and this may trigger more violence and repression on their part,” Javaid Rehman said, referring to a UN Human Rights Council vote to establish a probe into the crackdown last week.
Tehran has rejected the investigation and says it will not cooperate.
“Now (authorities) have started a campaign of sentencing (protesters) to death,” he added, saying he expected more to be sentenced.
Already, 21 people arrested in the context of the protests face the death penalty, including a woman indicted on “vague and broadly formulated criminal offenses,” and six have been sentenced this month, Rehman said.
The UN human rights office confirmed in an email that one of those indicted for “corruption on earth for publication of lies on a large scale” was famous Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, citing a judicial official.