As IranWire has reported, hundreds of Iranians have sustained severe eye injuries after being hit by pellets, tear gas cannisters, paintball bullets or other projectiles used by security forces amid a bloody crackdown on mainly peaceful demonstrations. Doctors say that, as of now, at least 580 protesters have lost one or both eyes in Tehran and in Kurdistan alone.
The report concluded that such actions by the security forces could constitute a “crime against humanity,” as defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute.
In this series of reports, IranWire presents the victims’ stories told in their own words. Some have posted their stories, along with their names and pictures, on social media. Others, whose real names shall not be disclosed to protect their safety, have told their stories to IranWire. IranWire can make their identities and medical situations available to international legal authorities.
This is the story of Saman, a 30-year-old man who revealed to the world that the Islamic Republic’s security forces were deliberately targeting protesters’ eyes. Immediately after fleeing Iran, he started speaking to media outlets about this appalling practice. Saman has kept IranWire informed about other victims of the brutal suppression on dissent.
“I wasn’t thinking I had gone blind, that I couldn’t see, that I had become ugly. No! I was happy. They gave me a powerful tool. They gave me a bigger tribune. I had 21,000 followers on Instagram. When I was in the street, I invited people. Today, I have 45,000 followers.”
When Saman sat in front of IranWire’s camera, he was wearing the same white shirt he had when he was shot in Tehran’s Vali-e Asr Square on October 1, 2022.
“I am Saman, 30 years old, from Tehran. I spent half of my life in the south and half in the north. Lately I was a resident of Andarzgoo in Tehran. Since 2009 I have advocated the overthrow of the regime. I was neither a reformist nor a principalist. I have always participated in protests, both in the field and on social media. From the very first day of the ongoing protests, I invited people to join the demonstrations.”
In his posts on Instagram over the past 250 weeks, Saman has expressed his hatred of the Islamic Republic, its founding father Ruhollah Khomeini and its current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
As he was sitting on his motorcycle in Vali-e Asr Square a few hours after the protests started, Saman turned his head and came eye to eye with a member of the security forces: “The moment he fired, I pushed the gas on my motorcycle and escaped. I knew what had happened. After crossing a few streets, I laughed loudly. It was a laughter of anger.”
“The biggest injury is psychological. My wound is nothing compared to that. I laughed and told myself that they’ve been shooting for years. It’s only once more, OK. What is the endgame? So, kill me. Kill me or kill 50 million Iranians. What do you get in the end? If it’s about wealth, many have acquired more than that. Where does this greed end?”
The pellet entered his left eye right in the middle: “My left teeth and my skull were damaged. The veins in my brain were inflamed. I was one step away from brain death. Blood could not flow higher than my neck.”
“I went to Farabi Hospital. They said they had no surgeon and that I must wait until the morning. I slept one night in the hospital without any bandages. The next day at 2 p.m. I underwent surgery for my eye so that they didn’t have to take it out.”
“They said there was probably no way to restore my eyesight and that I won’t be able to even see light in the future. This is what happened, and I lost my eyesight forever.”
“It Was my Only Choice”
“I made my choice,” Saman says while directly looking at the camera. “I have no other choice but to defend my country.”
“We must reach a level of awareness where we wouldn’t be deceived so easily again. The Islamic Republic tried to sow divisions between ethnic groups and religions, but we found each other. Our greatest achievement is the solidarity among all religions, all ethnic groups and all Iranians, inside and outside the country.”
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why...,” Saman wrote in his first Instagram post in March 2016. It now seems he has found the answer: fighting to free Iran.
Before the outbreak of the nationwide protests triggered by the September death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of morality police, most of Saman’s Instagram posts touched upon his personal problems and his work. In his first post after the eruption of the popular wave of anger, he shared the song “Baraye,” which has become an anthem to the protest movement, with the hashtag “Mahsa Amini.” The next post showed his bloodied eye.
After he was shot, Saman had to hide in a village for some time before finally fleeing the country to save his life.
Four months after he lost his eye, he wants the shooter to be held accountable before a court and pay blood money - the financial compensation paid to the victim in the cases of bodily harm - to help mend the psychological and physical traumas the victims of the state crackdown have been through.
Freedom for Everybody, even for the Agents of Suppression
“If somebody called me a hero, I would say that I am not a hero, but I do have a medal of honor,” he says while pointing to his eye. He then raises his left forearm which bears a tattoo of Iran’s three-color flag, the words “For Freedom” written on it, and an eye dripping blood.
The 30-year-old man believes that members of the security forces must also be saved from the Islamic Republic regime: “I have said many times that the agent who suppresses us must have financial problems as well. He eats a chicken that’s been raised with hormones. He breathes exhaust fumes. In other words, he has been denied his basic human rights, i.e., food and breathing. He has a family too. We must save everybody. These things must not happen again.”
Saman concedes that no power can grant immunity to those who robbed mothers of their children “because grieving mothers are after them.” “A mother who has buried her child can neither forget nor forgive.”
He smiles at the camera and continues: “The road to prosperity is freedom.”
Before this report was published, Saman called on Iranians to help their compatriots who have been shot in the eyes by providing financial assistance, trying to get them out of Iran and continuing to document the crimes being committed by the Islamic Republic.