Amid ongoing protests across Iran in the wake of the death of a 22-year-old woman, who was arrested for having “improper clothing”, the UN Human Rights office (OHCHR) today expressed strong concerns about the violent response by security forces to protests.
Speaking to media at the United Nations in Geneva, OHCHR’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that “we at the UN Human Rights office are very concerned by the continued violent response by security forces to protests in Iran, as well as communications restrictions affecting landline and mobile usage, the Internet and social media platforms”. Ms Shamdasani added that “thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country over the past 11 days, security forces have responded at times with live ammunition.”
Many Iranians have been killed, injured and detained during the protests which erupted following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amina. She was arrested on 13 September for allegedly not wearing a hijab in full compliance with Iran’s mandatory requirements for how women must dress.
“The women have been protesting against the compulsory hijab for four decades now, and this time around, there has been a real outpouring of support from people from all walks of life, from many different provinces across Iran”, said Ms. Shamdasani. “Women human rights defenders who have protested the use of the hijab or who have taken steps to remove it, they have for many years been targeted, intimidated, harassed, arrested, beaten up.”
OHCHR calls on Iranian authorities to ensure the rights to due process and to release those who have been arbitrarily detained during the protests now in their tenth day.
“Due in part to restrictions on telecommunications, it is difficult to establish the precise number of casualties and arrests. On 24 September, State media put the number killed at 41. Non-governmental organisations monitoring the situation have reported a higher number of deaths, including of women and children, and hundreds injured across at least 11 provinces.”
OHCHR stressed that firearms must never be used simply to disperse a demonstration. In the context of an assembly, they should only be used in cases of an imminent threat to life.
“Reports indicate that hundreds have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists and at least 18 journalists », said the OHCHR spokesperson. «The Government has not announced the overall number of arrests. But in the province of Gilan alone, the police chief said 739 individuals had been arrested, including 60 women during three days of protests.”
OHCHR also expressed its concern about the persistent impunity with respect to human rights violations in Iran, including the recurring deaths of protesters due to the alleged use of lethal force by security forces in November 2019, July 2021, and May 2022.