Statement from Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, from side event “IRAN’S WOMEN, MINORITIES AND THE FIGHT FOR RIGHTS · One Year After Jina Mahsa Amini’s Death in Custody”. Find our recap of the 54th session of the Human Rights Council for more information.
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.