Iran: 76 Children Killed and 272 Tortured in Brutal Crackdown on Protests

The Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI) has released a damning report on the alarming increase in cases of abduction, torture, and killing of children by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran. The report highlights the worsening situation since September 2022, following the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini while in government custody.

According to the report, many children have suffered serious injuries from shotguns and are currently in dire need of medical treatment, but they are unable to access such care due to the fear of being caught by the IRGC. The children who have survived the brutal attacks have been left to deal with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms without any access to psychological treatments. The IRGC has threatened and warned the parents of these children not to speak out about their situation.

The children whose eyes were targeted with pellet guns have experienced severe physical pain, loss of sight, and other clinical complications. These children doubly suffer from psychological problems, loss of any sense of safety and trust in how they experience the world around them, and loss of identity from someone with complete vision to someone with permanently compromised vision. Their suffering culminates in feelings of loss, anger, powerlessness, and helplessness, which may impact their development.

The security forces have murdered at least 76 children and injured, abducted, detained, and tortured hundreds of others since September 2022. The report reveals that the IRGC targeted at least 38 schools to abduct children during the rise of protests. These children were sent to a so-called “reforming” program where they were subjected to physical and psychological torture. The situation worsened in November 2022, with at least 4000 schoolgirls being subjected to chain chemical attacks, causing hospitalization in many cases.

These children have been abducted from their homes, their schools, on the streets, and during the protests. They have been subjected to psychological and physical torture, including rape. Some children were given the death sentence. Some of these children have been forced into a false confession. Their families have been threatened and pressured not to publicise their children’s names and situations. Many families are not informed of the whereabouts of their children. Most families approached by CFPPI for interviews have stated they are under pressure and threatened by the IRGC. Security agents threaten families not to speak out. Otherwise, they will not be permitted to see their children, they may ”never” see their children again, other family members will be arrested, or they are told to keep quiet so their children may be released sooner. In a majority of cases, families are asked for bail money. The families either cannot afford to pay the bail money or have to borrow the bail money. In both cases, the families of arrested children are under immense financial pressure.

The report also outlines a set of critical recommendations for international organizations and governments to address the gross violations of children’s rights committed by the IRGC and the Islamic regime in Iran.

Access to the full report on a PDF file.

Officials who lie and deny

It’s not difficult to discern that the powers-that-be within the Islamic regime have long relied upon a particular playbook: namely, one that hinges on the twin pillars of dissembling and disavowal. The killing of children during protests by security agents has been recorded in at least 11 provinces and 19 cities of Iran. The evidence for this assertion is easily corroborated by a cursory glance at the relevant cases:

On 23 September 2022, Iranian teenager Sarina Esmailzadeh died of alleged severe beating on the head by security forces during the Mahsa Amini protests in Karaj, Alborz province, Iran, according to human rights organizations. She was 16 years old.

The local Justice Department denied any responsibility for her death, claiming that she died by suicide after jumping from the rooftop of a building, and similar claims were made by the authorities about 16-year-old Nika Shakarami who had also attended the protests and died under suspicious circumstances.

Nika Shakarami disappeared in Tehran during the 2022 Iranian protests. Her family was informed of her death ten days later. She had died under suspicious circumstances suspected to involve violence by security forces. After her body was identified by her family, they planned to bury her in Khorramabad, but the body was allegedly stolen by Iranian authorities and instead buried in Hayat ol Gheyb, reportedly to exercise leverage over her family and to avoid a funeral procession which could cause further protests.

The Iranian authorities denied wrongdoing, spread several contradictory stories concerning her fate, and allegedly coerced some of her family members to support these narratives. Shakarami’s death and the attempts of government suppression regarding information on her fate was widely publicized in international media and further fanned the ongoing protests.

After their deaths, pictures of Shakarami and Esmailzadeh appeared on banners during protests and on posters in Iranian cities. Videos created by Esmailzadeh were shared online after her death, and hackers interrupted a government-run news broadcast in Iran with pictures of Esmailzadeh and other women killed during the protests.

To date, no security officer has been held accountable for their role in the heinous crime of murdering children. The Islamic Republic has yet to carry out a thorough and unbiased investigation into these tragic events. Instead of taking responsibility and conducting an impartial inquiry, the authorities have disavowed any involvement in these appalling acts and resorted to intimidation, coercion, arbitrary detention, torture, and even seizing the victims’ bodies to justify the cause of death. Either by concealing the children’s bodies or falsely accusing peaceful protesters and other innocent individuals of the murders.

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