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Blinding as a Weapon

Blinding As A Weapon (18): “They Robbed My Eye, Not My Voice”

March 3, 2023
Solmaz Eikdar
6 min read
“Five pellets went right into my eye…Nothing remains of my eye. The pupil and the retina were shredded. Right now, I have an artificial cornea in my eye.”
“Five pellets went right into my eye…Nothing remains of my eye. The pupil and the retina were shredded. Right now, I have an artificial cornea in my eye.”

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. But the actual numbers across the country are much higher.

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. IranWire has explored this question more deeply in an interview with Professor Payam Akhavan, a prominent human rights lawyer, special advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and a former member of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

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 Shahriar (not his real name), a young man of 26 who lost his left eye in the first days of the nationwide protests triggered by the September death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police. Despite his ordeal, he remains defiant: “I’m still a protester. They robbed me of my eye, but they cannot rob me of my voice.”


Like other young men and women of his generation, Shahriar was unhappy with corruption, poverty, and inequality, and on September 20, 2022, four days after Amini’s death, he became a “protester.”

In the afternoon of that day, he was returning home from work when he came across a demonstration on Tehran’s Keshavarz Boulevard: “Women were at the forefront. I felt that I belonged there, and I joined them.”

“We were shouting slogans when masked motorcyclists rushed toward us. They played with the accelerator to make loud noises and frighten us, but we were not frightened because we were now protesters.”

He makes a distinction between “protesting” and being a “protester:” “We all have been protesting for 40 years, but a protester is different. Somebody might protest by grumbling, but becoming a protester means going to the street, shouting, and paying the price for it.”

The day he joined the protesters, he was aware he might be arrested, injured or even killed, but he accepted the risks: “I became a protester on the day I wasn’t frightened by the sounds made by the altered exhaust pipes of the plainclothesmen’s motorcycles and shouted, ‘Death to the dictator’ even louder.”

Then the shooting started.

At around 4 p.m., groups of protesters started gathering along Keshavarz Boulevard. Internet services were frequently interrupted, but eyewitnesses reported that the security forces in central areas of Tehran were firing teargas, paintballs and pellets at the demonstrators. On Keshavarz Boulevard, the protests grew, and protesters kept shouting slogans against the regime and its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, calling him “our disgrace.” “

Protesters pulled out the fences in the middle of the boulevard to create obstacles in the path of the security forces. Fires were lit to weaken the effects of teargas. And our young man lost his left eye.

“I Think about Nothing Else but their Downfall”

“Five pellets went right into my eye…Nothing remains of my eye. The pupil and the retina were shredded. Right now, I have an artificial cornea in my eye.”

Shahriar speaks with a lump in his throat, and it is difficult to distinguish his words. Now, he says, Shahriar is going to take good care of his remaining eye to be able to witness the downfall of the Islamic Republic: “I really want to see them go. I think about nothing else but their downfall.”

Other protesters took him to hospitals, but they didn’t admit him. In one hospital, the injured escaped when security agents raided the wards.

Protesters say that many hospital staff did their best to treat the injured, and some even refused to receive any payment. But ongoing investigations by IranWire show that most hospitals were either under the control of security forces or medical staff were afraid to admit injured protesters.

Shahriar was denied emergency care and was forced to return home, where he spent the whole night with the intense pain caused by the pellets in his eye.

He finally underwent eye surgery on November 1, 2022, 40 days after being shot.

“I’m Hungry, but I Kept my Honor”

“I have lost my eye but not my audacity as a protester.”

Shahriar continues to participate in street protests. He says he has turned the anger and the grief over the lost eyes of hundreds of protesters into a motivation for fighting on, pulling off the mullahs’ turbans, and attending the mourning ceremonies for those killed.

Being a protester does not stop there. He says he has resigned from his government job and has given up his benefits: “I felt that my honor would be damaged if I continued to work there. I could not take it anymore. After I recuperated, I went there and submitted my resignation. I gave up my insurance and had to pay for my treatment out of my own pocket, but I did get out of there.”

“You know how the economic situation is,” Shahriar says. “Sometimes I have to do with only one meal a day. I’m hungry but I kept my honor.”

The young man’s grandfather was martyred in the eight-year war against Iraq in the 1980s, and his father is a veteran of the same war, so, theoretically, at least, he can benefit from services provided by the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs. The foundation informed him that he could sue the security agency that shot him and demand reparations. But he was also warned that if he did so, “We’ll stuff your body in a bag, and we won’t turn it over to your family.”

So, there has been no suing and no reparations.

Shahriar says he was robbed of his medical documents in the street, meaning that his second eye surgery might be canceled after the hospital refused to give him a copy of the certificate for his artificial cornea: “They said that they have received a directive ordering them to refuse to give such certificates to anybody.”

“They can try all they want, but it would get them nowhere. We, I and all the other victims of this regime, are living evidence, and we shall continue to live until the day we can testify against them in court.”




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