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.
IranWire is aware of more than 50 serious eye injuries sustained by protestors and bystanders over the past five months. With the help of independent ophthalmologists, we have reviewed the medical records of around a dozen individuals and compiled a comprehensive medical report.
In the series of reports “Blinding As A Weapon,” 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, which can make their identities and medical records available to international legal authorities.
This is the story of Parsa Ghobadi, an 18-year-old man who lost sight in both eyes after being shot by the security forces. He was also tortured during his brief detention. “Execution would be too easy for you. You deserve to be blinded,” the interrogator told Ghobadi before his pellet-ridden body was thrown into an alleyway.
On November 25, 2022, Iranian security forces took to the streets to celebrate the Iranian national football team’s 2-0 victory over Wales in Qatar.
Four days earlier, the same forces had brutally cracked down on protests that followed Iran’s defeat against England amid two months of nationwide demonstrations during which hundreds of people were killed, beaten and blinded. Some protesters celebrated the football defeat in Qatar because they viewed the Iranian team as the Islamic Republic’s team, not Iran’s.
That night, Parsa Ghobadi, who had turned 18 on October 27, joined his friends in a neighborhood in the western city of Kermanshah and shouted anti-government slogans.
A plainclothesman fired at Ghobadi’s face and blinded his two eyes. While blood was running down his face, he tried to escape but the forces of suppression shot him multiple times in the back and filled his body with pellets.
“It’s better that you’re blinded than executed”
Several agents beat and handcuffed Ghobadi as he was laying on the ground, and took him to an unknown location.
During his interrogation, Ghobadi received fist and kick blows and was hit with rifle butts. As the young man was keeping his mouth shut, they also used a taser and burned his right arm that was already filled with pellets.
Finally, they forcibly opened his mouth and poured water down his throat to get his name and address. The interrogator threatened Ghobadi with prison and execution but, in the end, he told him, “It’s better that you’re blinded than executed.”
The same night, Ghobadi was thrown into an alleyway near his home.
Eyes Torn to Pieces
Seven pellets tore through an eyeball and lodged near the bone in the back of the eye. The other eye was not in much better shape, and the doctors told Ghobadi that the pellets could never be removed from his eyes.
Ghobadi was taken to the hospital in Kermanshah. The doctors first said that both his eyes must be emptied out because his eyeballs were torn to pieces and suggested replacing the eyeballs with glass eyeballs. In the end, however, they cleaned the eyes, kept him hospitalized for a week and treated him with tranquilizers and antibiotics until he could be transferred to Tehran for treatment.
Over the past three months, Ghobadi has repeatedly been taken from Kermanshah to Tehran and back. His left eye cannot see at all and the vision in his right eye is so blurry that he cannot distinguish between colors or between light and shade. The doctors have not given him a clear prognosis. Both his eyeballs are full of pellet holes, and he is suffering from kidney malfunction as well.
Who is Parsa Ghobadi?
Ghobadi is described by people close to him as “kind” and “brave.” He dropped out of school when he was in 10th grade and started working as a car painter. They say that nobody has seen him cry. He has six siblings and is the youngest child of the family.
This young man is sitting in his home the whole day and listens to music. Like other members of his generation, he mostly listens to rap songs protesting inequality, censorship, tyrannical restrictions and absence of freedom.
Victims who have also been shot in the eyes have taken to Instagram to call on people to lift Ghobadi’s spirits by sending him audio messages. In the past few days, many have done so and Ghobadi sometimes smiles and asks about his Instagram page. After all, in one of his Instagram posts he had written that the word “impossible” does not exist in his lexicon.