On September 15, the eve of the death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini, Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva (KMMK-G) hosted a side event during the 54th session of the Human Rights Council, in collaboration with Impact Iran, IED, Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM), and Minority Rights Group, to “serve as a dual platform: a space to examine developments since the start of the protests and the emergence of the movement “Women, Life, Freedom,” and a resounding call for collective action”.
Participants included coalition members representatives such as KMMK-G’s Taimoor Aliassi and Kurdpa’s Kochar Wallad Begi, as well as human rights experts Javaid Rehman (the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran) and Sara Hossain (chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran), marking the side event as the first to include a member of the recently established fact-finding mission.
Find excerpts and statements from each speaker below.
Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva / International Educational Development
“Iran persists in denying the facts: repression and killings have been the state’s sole response for the past 40 years, with impunity. It’s time for international community to take responsibility and to put an end to Iran’s long history of impunity.”
Hello and Good afternoon to all.
Dear Guests, delegates and participants,
I would like to welcome you, on behalf of the International Educational Development and the Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva —as well as our co-sponsors, Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort, Minority Rights Group and the Impact Iran coalition.
This is a very important panel on the dramatic situation of women and minorities in Iran.
We are here to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic murder of Jina Mahsa Amini, after her detention by the so-called “morality police”.
Jina was one of the millions of Iranian young women who have been facing for the past 40 years this gender apartheid regime. Its’ obvious features are discrimination, imprisonment, torture, rape, and summary executions.
During Jina’s funeral in Kurdistan last September, girls and women threw away theirs veils and challenged the regime’s rule by chanting the Kurdish women manifest: Women, Life, Freedom! This chant spread all over Iran and became the slogan of a whole nation.
Instead of investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Jina, as well as hundreds of other innocent girls and boys, the regime waged more violence and is now passing new bills that reinforce gender and ethnic apartheid. Jina Mahsa Amini’s father was interrogated three times in the past few days and his uncle Safa Alae was also detained and disappeared.
The regime silenced all the people by cracking down violently on all forms of dissents. It has especially sought to intimidate and silence lawyers and the families of the victims who are seeking truth, justice and accountability for the death of their beloved ones.
The Kurdistan provinces, the cradle of the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom!”, sparked the protests across the whole nation. They suffered some of the most violent repression.
It is no secret that Kurdistan andBaluchistan have been disproportionately affected by the crimes against humanity committed by the regime. In just one day, the 30 September 2022, which we now call “Bloody Friday”, 82 civilians were massacred in Baluchistan. On the 21st November, 9 others Kurdish civilians were targeted and eliminated and 80 others injured by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Juwanro in Kurdistan.
More than half of 580 protestors killed in Iran, are Kurdish and Balochis. 63 percent of the children killed are also from Kurdish and Balochi minorities.
The regime continues to ban newspapers and to fire university professors. Instead, it recruits extremist clerics into its universities as well as members and fighters of Iraqi Hashdi Sha’abi (Shia Militias) to silence and submit dissident students. In addition, the regime is continuing to apply enforced disappearances of opponents. It places political prisoners in psychiatric hospitals to destroy them. Girls and boys face torture, rape and enforced disappearances and the regime does not even return the dead bodies of the victims to their families!
The regime is always in complete denial: The repression and killing are its sole response in the past 40 years without impunity! It’s time for international community to assume it’s responsibility to put an end to Iran’s long history of impunity, according to international law, minorities and women have a right to protection..
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now, before the speeches of our honorable guests, I would like to show you a five minutes video on what happened in the past year in Iran.
Also, for your information, this panel discussion is public and will be filmed and I thank you in advance to put your handy cells on the mode silence.
I thank you for your attention.
Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran (chair)
“Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a positive response to visit Iran in response to our repeated requests on this line. […] we have sent out 14 detailed letters seeking information on particular issues to the government of Iran. We have received only partial responses to date. This is regrettable, as we’ve repeatedly said, we are open to and committed to making an independent assessment with information from a wide range of sources.
Establishing facts to expose human rights violations is a crucial first step to ending impunity. […] the people of Iran […] have fundamental rights to equality, truth, justice, accountability, and reparation, and we’re determined to make every effort to support them on this journey to achieving their legitimate aspirations.”
Thank you for inviting me speak on behalf of the Fact-Finding Mission on Iran and to address the issues of accountability and justice in Iran, as these are very much at the heart of our mandate. As you all know, the Fact-Finding Mission was established last year in November 2022 by the Human Rights Council. We were given a threefold mandate. First: To investigate alleged human rights violations occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the protests that began there on the 16th of September 2022, especially in relation to women and children. Secondly, to examine the related facts and circumstances, and thirdly, to collect, consolidate, analyze, and preserve evidence in relation to future legal proceedings. We have so far received and analyzed information about a wide range of alleged violations. These include the death and custody of Jina Mahsa Amini, and repression during protests, including the use of force, reportedly resulting in killings and injuries of protesters and bystanders. Arbitrary arrests in detentions and targeted repression of individuals, including, amongst others, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, teachers, and family members who are seeking truth and justice for victims. We’re also looking into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence and reprisals against families of protesters and others, as well as issues of fair trial, including the use of the death penalty and restrictions on communications, in particular online. Our investigation seeks to identify bodies, individuals, and structures involved in the commission of violations and crimes under international law and to examine the steps which the State of Iran has undertaken to date to address these alleged violations. Our mission is scrupulously following a victim-centered and intersectional approach in the conduct of investigations. This means that we’re looking into incidents where children, women, and members of ethnic and religious minorities have been particularly affected, and we’re seeking to make visible the impact of the alleged violations on them. As part of our mandate, we’re also identifying discrimination as it occurs on grounds of age, sex, socioeconomic status, religion, and ethnicity, as well as sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
Let me update you briefly on the status of our investigation so far. As you know, we’re now halfway through our mandate. And we have to report to the Human Rights Council in March 2024. As such, we can’t give you detailed findings at this point, but we can confirm that we’re extensively conducting investigations, and our approach is to conduct and collect our own information, particularly through interviews with victims and witnesses, their representatives and advocates, to enable and facilitate their informed participation. We’re also analyzing vast amounts of information that are available through open sources, including official information from the government of Iran. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a positive response to visit the country in response to our repeated requests on this line. And so, like many other investigative bodies, we’re conducting our investigations entirely remotely, we have sent out 14 detailed letters seeking information on particular issues to the government of Iran. We have received only partial responses to date. This is regrettable. As we’ve repeatedly said, we are open to and committed to making an independent assessment with information from a wide range of sources. I’d like to stress here the ongoing nature of our mandate. So we’re focusing both on past violations, particularly from the height of protests between September and December 2022. But we’re also looking at alleged violations since then and those that are linked to the protest and in particular to the Woman Life and Freedom movement.
Let me highlight a few concerns and I refer you to our press statement which was issued last night in his in our web page for further details. I can first say that the Fact-Finding Mission has now reached the conclusion that investigations so far by the government of Iran into Jina Mahsa Amini’s death in custody have fallen far short of international human rights norms and standards, including the requirements of independence and transparency. Her family has suffered intimidation, even her grave site has been damaged on at least two occasions, as we have seen from media reports. As we approach the tragic anniversary of Jina Mahsa Amini’s death in custody, we’re disturbed to note that rather than furthering the investigations and the process of accountability, authorities are instead exacerbating punitive measures against those exercising their fundamental rights, in particular freedom of expression and assembly. And they seem to be reinforcing the capacity to quell dissent, including with the use of heightened surveillance technology. We’ve observed and documented escalating harassment and intimidation of family members of protesters, including children. Dozens of family members, including those who have simply been trying to mourn their loved ones, and seek truth and justice for the alleged violations against them, have reportedly been arrested or summoned for questioning in recent weeks. We’re particularly concerned about the situation of three of the journalists who reported on Jina Mahsa’s death last year. Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi have been in detention for nearly a year, and they’re currently facing trial on allegations of, amongst others, national security violations and propaganda against the state. Nazila Maroufian, another journalist who had interviewed the father of Jina Mahsa, is also continuing to face charges. Jina Mahsa’s family’s lawyer Saleh Nikbakht has, according to official sources, been summoned for questioning and is standing trial now on charges again of propaganda activity.
Regarding the situation of women and girls, we are disturbed to note that the parliament in Iran is now considering two bills that seek to increase punishment for improper hijab. If these are passed, they would negatively impact on a wide range of rights of women’s and women and girls. This would include their rights to education, health, adequate standard of living, as well as their right to take part in the public life of their country. We’re very concerned to note the announcement of a smart program involving surveillance cameras to identify women violating the hijab mandate or even wearing loose clothing in public. We’ve also heard about the deployment of vehicle and foot patrols across the country to enforce hijab rules and about increasing numbers of women and girls who are being arrested and sentenced in this connection.
Finally, we’re deeply disturbed to note the ongoing execution of protesters, as well as the treatment of those who are still detained. At least 26 individuals have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests, and seven men have already been executed, in some cases after trials lasting only a few days. Over the past year, several protesters have also died in custody following reports of torture. Most recently, we’ve learned that Javad Ruhi, a young protester who was reportedly subjected to torture and remained detained even after his death sentence had been overturned.
Finally, let me turn to the issue of advancing accountability. As I noted, the Fact-Finding Mission has been conducting the collection and consolidation, analysis and preservation of information and evidence in view of possible cooperation with legal proceedings. The kind of cooperation that may take place may include the sharing of relevant information and evidence in accordance with international law standards with competent national courts or investigative judicial or prosecutorial authorities in third countries or its international level as appropriate. Our recommendations to the Islamic Republic of Iran will include measures for prevention, protection, and reparation, and on addressing impunity. Our recommendations may also comprise measures to be taken by other United Nations member states, to increase respect and protection of human rights in Iran and to promote equality, truth, and justice, as well as to support the design and implementation of reparations. The work of investigative bodies mandated by the Human Rights Council has contributed to truth and justice for victims and accountability in many other countries and jurisdictions. Establishing facts to expose human rights violations is a crucial first step to ending impunity. In some cases, in other countries, we have seen that investigative bodies have identified those responsible for violations and have called for concrete action, including in third countries under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction. As we indicated in our oral update back in July to the Human Rights Council, the people of Iran, in particular women and girls and members of every community and every faith, have fundamental rights to equality, truth, justice, accountability, and reparation, and we’re determined to make every effort to support them on this journey to achieving their legitimate aspirations. Thank you all again for the opportunity to speak with you today, and I wish you a constructive discussion in today’s side event.
Kochar Wallad Begi
Women and human rights activist, Kurdpa
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not respect nor adhere to international human rights standards. We, therefore call upon the international community to take notice of the human rights abuses in Iran, especially those against ethnic nations such as Kurds, that the voices of oppression against ethnic nations and the widespread suppression and massacre of people to be heard, and Iran to be held accountable for its actions against women, girls and ethnic nations.”
In the name of Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests;
As we mark the first anniversary of the brutal murder of Jina Amini in the hands of the morality police, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues its campaign of arbitrary arrests and violent crackdowns on civilians. Over the past year, especially in the last few weeks, the Iranian government has intensified its campaign through militarization and a wave of arbitrary arrest in the Kurdistan provinces, to intimidate the population. Additionally, only today we have recieved confirmed reports that Iranian army have placed military tanks near the grave of Jina Amini, to prevent the anniversary mourning taking place tomorrow.
The securitization of the public space and intimidation has become a routine in the cities of Kurdistan, with Kurdish citizens being singled out and searched at checkpoints. Night raids on people’s homes, arrests and beatings continue, and often the charges are for participation in political, social and union activities.
In an attempt to deviate the public attention on the crackdowns, the IRGC have deployed ground troops and heavy armory across the border with Iraq’s Kurdistan region, targeting the Kurdish oppositional parties based in exile in the Kurdistan region of Iraq through drone attacks and artillery shelling, with threats of imminent ground operation on their bases.
Since the beginning of this year, 532 prisoners have been executed in Iran, 142 of them are Kurds including 2 women and 107 are Baluch. While, the Kurds and Baluch population only make up to 20% of the population in Iran.
In the past two weeks more than 75 family members of the victims of the Jin, Jiyan, Azadi revolution have been arrested, including children. Among them is the father of Mohammed Mehdi Karami, the young man who was executed, Mashalla Karami who has been detained for over 20 days.
Another detainee is the Kurdish journalist, Nazila Maroufian, who reported on Jina Amini, has for the fourth time been arrested, beaten, raped and now sentenced to one year imprisonment in the notorious Evin prison. She has reportedly suffered two minor heart attacks in detaining. Following her last arrest Nazila has begun a hunger strike demanding for her release and protesting the torture she has been subjected to.
Additionally the Iranian security forces have arrested Kurdish religious leaders for their support to the protestors demands and many of them are facing imprisonment, beatings, humiliations and are made redundant from work. Furthermore, their children are also facing torture, humiliation and rape to silence them. At least, eight religious figures’ children suffered rape however, their families are refusing to witness openly about the rapes.
The Islamic Republic of Iran will not respect nor adhere to international human rights standards. We, therefore call upon the international community to take notice of the human rights abuses in Iran, especially those against ethnic nations such as Kurds, that the voices of oppression against ethnic nations and the widespread suppression and massacre of people to be heard, and the Islamic Republic to be held accountable for its actions against women, girls and ethnic nations.
I thank you for your attention.
Jin Jiyan Azadi.
Balochistan Human Rights Group
“BHRG calls on the international community to put an end to Iran’s systemic violations against the Baluch and all Iranians exercising their fundamental rights […] to support efforts for accountability, including the investigation by the FFMI and prosecutions in third countries using universal jurisdiction […] to mobilise international pressure for change.”
Ladies and gentlemen, honourable guests,
Bauchistan Human Rights Group is thankful for the organisers of this event to allow to voice the struggles of the Baluch people.
On September 16th, 2022, Jina Mahsa Amini’s death in Tehran police custody ignited nationwide protests, thrusting Iran’s human rights struggle onto the global stage. Less reported were concurrent protests in Baluchistan, sparked by the rape of 15-year-old Mahoo by a local police chief in June 2022. When the wave of unrest from Jina Amini’s death reached Baluchistan, civilians then joined the Women Life Freedom Movement, enduring heavy costs.
On September 30th, 2022, known as “Bloody Friday,” state forces brutally targeted peaceful Baluch protesters in Zahedan after Friday prayers in broad daylight, resulting in approximately 135 deaths, including women and 20 children. This marked the deadliest day of repression in the movement’s history. Innocent people were shot indiscriminately as they left Friday prayers on their way to join peaceful demonstrations. Amongst the victims includes a child with bullets in the back of their head and another dead as a result of gas inhalation.
The Islamic Republic has embraced a totalitarian approach, leading to severe oppression and a division between “ingroup” and “outgroup.” The Baluch people have borne the brunt of this oppression, facing gross human rights violations. Many Baluch individuals are denied national identification, which hinders their access to education, healthcare, and social services. Hundreds of thousands lack formal identification, such was the case of Khodanoor Lagahi. This population control tactic by the Iranian regime makes it impossible to determine the exact population of Baluchistan, requiring us to rely on estimates.
In minority areas like Baluchistan and Kurdistan, the situation is dire. Baluch people endure disproportionate state repression, making up about 30% of those executed as reported in a recent UN report, even though they constitute only 4% of Iran’s population. On top of this, Baluchistan, Iran’s poorest province, grapples with severe socio-economic challenges.
Iran’s marginalised and minoritised communities, like Baluch and Kurdish ethnic minorities, plus religious groups such as the Baha’i and Yarasani, suffer severe state oppression due to historical neglect. The government treats them as unequal due to cultural, religious and linguistic differences, with limited international scrutiny, creating a global accountability problem.
In Baluchistan and Kurdistan, ethnic and gender apartheid is evident. Minority women, particularly Baluch women, face profound discrimination. Born into poverty, lacking basic rights, and often without birth certificates, their future opportunities for education, voting, and banking are grim. Forced into early marriages, often with partners who share their educational, social and legal disadvantages. These men have no choice but to enter perilous professions like fuel transportation, known for its high mortality rates due to attacks and mines. These attacks reveal the regime’s intent to cause death and destruction. Survivors may face execution in sham trials, perpetuating a cycle of oppression and poverty resulting from widespread human rights abuses. Baluch women, tired of generations of injustice, courageously protest in major Baluchistan cities, demanding basic human rights, regardless of the potential costs.
So the question comes: what can the international Community do to help?
Despite the grim circumstances, voices within Baluchistan are growing stronger. BHRG calls on the international community to resume its responsibility and to put an end to the regimes systemic violations against the Baluch people and all Iranians exercising their fundamental rights.
Please support efforts for accountability in Iran, including the investigation by the International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran and prosecutions in third countries using universal jurisdiction.
Lastly, we encourage you to utilise all available UN avenues, including the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, to mobilise international pressure for change and end the repression of the Baluch and other Iranians.
Bahá’í International Community
“It is only through putting aside our differences, discarding ideas of “us and them,” “pure and unclean”, and learning to live together, side by side, as members of different ethnicities and faith groups, desiring equal rights for all, and allowing for and valuing the participation contrubution of all, that we can create an Iran where every person sees for themselves a place and can work together and shoulder to shoulder for its betterment.”
UN Special Rapporteur on the human right situation in the Islamic Republican of Iran
“In my view, the scale and gravity of the violations committed by Iranian authorities, especially since the death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini points to the possible commission of international crimes , notably the crimes against humanity of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence and persecution. […] On this day, one year from the tragic death of Jina Mahsa Amini, I seek accountability and ask for justice for the victims of human rights.”
I begin by thanking the organizers of this side event and members of the civil society for inviting me to speak to you this afternoon. Since September 2022, the people of Iran have been facing the worst forms of violations of human rights. Ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities continue to suffer from systemic and systematic persecution, targeting, and harassment. Women and girls of Iran are targeted with the most serious assault on their fundamental human rights and human dignity. The morality police, the cause of much detestation and aggravation, has lately been redeployed, with women and girls being confronted, detained, and harassed. These policies are intended to further violate women’s rights and their dignity by attempts to enforce the hijab. The death in custody of the morality police of Jina Mahsa Amini on the 16th of September 2022 unleashed one of the strongest waves of protests and civil unrest Iran has seen during the past four decades. She was arrested for allegedly failing to comply with Iran’s strict rules on women’s dress by wearing the so-called improper hijab. The death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini is, unfortunately, a tragic reflection of the violence against girls and women of Iran. In her case, there are also clear implications with an ethnic and religious dimension. However, the law of enforcing hijab and the manner of its enforcement by state authorities is emblematic of the violence, brutality, and the violation of fundamental human rights and human dignity of all girls and women of the country. The death in custody of Jina Mahsa resulted in spontaneous protests which were led by women and youth of Iran under the banner, Women Life Freedom. These protests quickly transformed into nationwide protests, spreading to 160 cities and all 31 provinces of the country, where people from every community, girls, women, boys, men and children, and people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds joining these protests. Unfortunately, there has been a brutal response of the Iranian authorities to these protests. It is estimated that the use of lethal force by security forces has led to the deaths of at least 537 persons, including at least 68 children. Dozens have lost their eyes because of direct shocks to their head. Iranian doctors have also reported women and girls who were participating in these protests were targeted with shotgun fire to their faces and other sensitive parts of their bodies. There are consistent reports and testimonies of torture and ill-treatment of protesters, including sexual and gender-based violence. Iranian authorities tried to shut down all avenues of freedom of expression, disrupting the Internet and censorship of social media platforms. I’m deeply disturbed by reports of threats, arrests, and imprisonment of journalists for their critical and independent reporting, including in the context of protest and, indeed, the subsequent suspected school poisoning affecting the health of thousands of schoolgirls in Iran. I’m absolutely horrified, shocked, outraged that despite appeals by the international community, including by my own mandate, Iranian authorities have thus far executed at least seven persons associated with the protests after arbitrary summary and sham trials that violated the right to fair trial and due process rights. These summary executions are the symbols of the state ready to use all means to instill fear and to quash protests. I am very concerned that several other individuals currently face charges that carry the death penalty. I’m alarmed at the reports of targeting and victimization of ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities. It was extremely tragic to note that ethnic and religious minorities who have suffered decades of systematic and systemic discrimination and persecution have been disproportionately impacted in the current wave of repression. There has been a gross overrepresentation of ethnic and religious minorities in the killings of protesters after protests started since September 2022. Over half of the total number of persons killed since the start of the protests are Balochi and Kurds. Children from Iran, Balochi and Kurdish minorities constitute over 63% of the recorded child victims. As demonstrated and as already noted that the tragedy of the 30th of September in Zahedan, Sistan and Balochistan, now remembered tragically as the Bloody Friday, at least 93 Balochi were brutally killed by the Iranian security forces. A majority of victims were shot in the head, heart, neck, and torso, demonstrating a clear intent to kill or to do serious harm to individuals. Kurdish areas, particularly in southern regions of West Azerbaijan provinces Kurdistan and Kermanshah, have also witnessed extreme repression and killings of at least 140 Kurdish protesters, including thirteen children and eight women. I remain extremely concerned at the heavy and continuing military deployments in the Kurdish minority cities of Iran. The Iranian authorities have, unfortunately, weaponized death penalty as an instrument of fear and repression. This includes the disproportionate execution of ethnic and religious minority prisoners, in particular those belonging to the Baloch and Kurdish minorities. Ethnic minorities, including minority women, continue to be disproportionately affected by executions. In 2022, according to our estimation, 582 persons were executed last year, at least 147 Balochi, who only represent between 2 to 6% of the total population. More than half were executed on charges of drug-related offenses. Amongst the over 500 executions that have taken place just this year, over 107 are Balochi and over 140 are Kurdish people. My report to the Human Rights Council in March 2022 and March 2023, have firmly established my conclusions that there is an absence of accountability for serious human rights violations and for crimes of international law within the political, constitutional and legal system of Iran. In my view, the scale and gravity of the violations committed by Iranian authorities, especially since the death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini points to the possible commission of international crimes, notably the crimes against humanity of murder, imprisonment, and forced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence and persecution. So, what about investigations and establishing accountability for serious violations of human rights? Unfortunately, none of that has happened. There has been a complete governmental failure to conduct any independent, impartial and transparent investigations into these murderous acts, killings, and brutality. And there has been a complete failure to hold the perpetrators accountable. Instead, the state has been harassing, arresting, and putting to trial all those who reported Miss Amini’s death, including the two journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahieh Mohammadi on national security charges. Now, as the panel has mentioned, we are receiving disturbing reports that the harassment and repression of family members and other human rights defenders are taking place to prevent further protests and to repress individuals. On this day, one year from the tragic death of Jina Mahsa Amini. I seek accountability and ask for justice for the victims of human rights violations.
I thank you very much.