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 Seyed Javad Mousavi, a father of two young children who shot in both eyes and killed during mourning ceremonies held for another protester murdered by the security forces. After killing Mousavi, the security forces threw his body next to a water canal and laughed while riding their motorcycles nearby.
A lifeless body on the ground with outstretched arms and closed eyes; that’s the only image of Mousavi we have after he was shot. In a short video from the scene, we can hear the laughter of security forces riding motorcycles nearby.
It happened in the central city of Isfahan on November 17, 2022, during the mourning ceremonies marking the 40th day after protester Ahmad Shokrollahi was killed by paramilitary Basiji forces.
Before going to work at Sepahan Steel Tubes and Pipes Factory, where he was a manager, Mousavi took to Instagram to call on protesters to attend the ceremonies for Shokrollahi.
Mousavi left the factory early to join mourners in the congregation hall where the ceremonies took place. A large crowd of protesters then headed toward Shokrollahi’s resting place, chanting anti-government slogans.
“Don’t be Afraid...I Know him”
Security forces lobbed teargas into the crowd before officers on motorcycles chased the protesters in alleyways. Mousavi and his friends took shelter in the home of an elderly woman who had left the door to her yard open for the fleeing demonstrators.
Mousavi was still in the yard when a member of the security forces climbed onto the door and shot him in the eyes. An eyewitness says Mousavi knew the assailant and said, “Don’t be afraid. He is [the name]. I know him.” But the shooter pulled the trigger, without hesitating.
The protesters managed to escape, while more security forces arrived and took away Mousavi’s body.
Mousavi was born in 1983 and was the father of a boy and a girl aged nine and five, respectively.
According to people close to him, he started his activism against the Islamic Republic in the 2000s. During the widespread protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, he was detained for two days.
The young man was a well-known person in Isfahan’s Khvorasgan district. He often engaged in conversations with members of the Basij force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to try to open their eyes to the truth about the regime. In the end, he was shot dead by one of them.
Burial under the Security Agents’ Watchful Eyes
For three days, the authorities lied to Mousavi’s family and friends about what had happened to him. Once, they said Mousavi had been shot in his leg; another time, they said that he was hospitalized.
Finally, on November 20, Mousavi was laid to rest amid the heavy presence of security agents and plainclothesmen, but his family was not allowed to bury him in the cemetery of their choosing. Mousavi’s mother insisted on seeing the face of the body before the burial because she was afraid it might not be her son.
Security forces also attended the mourning ceremonies marking the seventh day after the burial to prevent protesters from joining the family.
امروز امامزاده کلثوم در خوراسگان #اصفهان در محاصره نیروهای امنیتی بود تا مانع حضور مردم در مراسم هفتم شهید راه آزادی #سیدجوادموسوی بشوند— صدای اصفهان (@VIsfehan) November 27, 2022
۶ آذر #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/QhslgUVguZ
Promises and Rumors
Mousavi’s death certificate states that he was hit by a “hard projectile” that damaged the brain tissue. It remains unclear what kind of weapon fired the unspecified projectile.
After the burial, security and intelligence agents offered money to Mousavi’s relatives and promised they would provide for his children on the condition that they remain silent about the circumstances of the man’s death, according to a friend.
The family rejected these offers, and the security forces spread a rumor in the neighborhood that Mousavi had been an intelligence agent for Israel and that he and his friends planned to plant bombs on the night he was shot. They also claimed that one of the conspirators killed Mousavi because he had not shared the money equally among the plotters.