As IranWire has reported, hundreds of Iranians have sustained severe eye injuries after being hit by pellets, tear gas canisters, 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 and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This is the story of Hassin Abedini, a 20-year-old protester who not only was shot in the eye by government forces, but was also expelled from university, beaten in the street and thrown in jail. The young man wrote on Instagram about himself and other victims like Hossein Naderbeigi, a bystander who lost both eyes during the protests. He said he wants “retribution and only retribution” for what the security forces inflicted on him.
It was 8:30 p.m. on September 21, 2022, when Hassin Abedini and friends joined other protesters in a Tehran neighborhood to shout anti-government slogans.
As the crowd grew bigger and the shouting of slogans got louder, riot police arrived and started firing teargas at the protesters. After the third teargas canister was fired, Abedini and many other men, women and children set out to take shelter in alleyways.
When Abedini returned to the street, a riot policeman sitting on the backseat of a motorcycle fired his pellet gun at the young man. Three pellets hit his left eye.
Two of the pellets tore through his left eyeball and destroyed the retina. The third pellet struck his eyelid. He had one pellet in his forehead, two in his neck, three in his shoulder blade and two in his lower arm.
When he got home, his clothes, face and hair were covered in blood. His mother fainted when she saw him. His father beat himself on the head and cried. “They put a hole in my son’s eye!” he lamented.
Abedini’s parents brought him to Treata Hospital but the doctors there refused to treat the wounded. As his parents were searching for a way to save their son, he was vomiting and screaming because of the pain.
Finally, around 9:30 p.m., they reached Farabi Hospital. Abedini was put on a wheelchair and taken to the emergency room that was filled with protesters who had been injured in the eye the same night.
The doctors first said that his left eye was completely blind and the retina had been destroyed. The following day, Abedini underwent surgery.
The second surgery was planned for September 25 but it was postponed twice because of the high number of people who had been shot in the eyes and because the operating room was not available. Finally, Hassin went under surgery for six hours. A month later, the injured eye lost its sight completely.
The third surgery was conducted on November 1. The doctors had diagnosed that the retina had been detached so, for a second time, they injected silicone oil into his eye to keep the retina in place. However, after this surgery, the doctors gave up hope that the sight in his left eye would ever return. The lens has become almost white and cloudy. The veins in the eye are inflated as well.
Family Harassed, Abedini Arrested
To continue treatment, Abedini went to the doctor and it was there that he met Hossein Naderbeigi. At the time, nobody knew that this young man had lost both eyes but Abedini wrote about him on his Instagram page.
This attracted the attention of security forces. In the past several months, IranWire has learned, a number of those who have been injured in the eyes have been harassed and arrested by security agencies.
The harassment of Abedini and his family started after his Instagram post. Hassin left his home to live somewhere else, but the security agents raided his father’s workplace and questioned and threatened him.
On November 15, two weeks after his last surgery, Abedini, who was wearing an eyepatch, went to various pharmacies to find the eye drops he needed. As it has been reported, there was a shortage of medications. He finally succeeded in finding a pharmacy that had his eye drops. However, it was located in Tehran’s Sadeghieh Circle which, at that time, was the scene of protests.
After Abedini bought the eye drops, he was beaten by four plainclothesmen on motorcycles, thrown into a van and taken to the Greater Tehran penitentiary, known as Fashafuyeh Prison, where he was beaten again.
IranWire has learned that Abedini had been charged with “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the regime” and “leading rioters.” It took a few days for his parents to find him and secure his release after posting a bail for 200 million tomans and signing many pledges, including a pledge to remain silent.
Expelled from University
After his release from Fashafuyeh Prison, Abedini was expelled from university as well.
Abedini was a third-semester student of management at Azad University, next to a base of the Revolutionary Guards, who told him he must prepare himself to “quit.”
The second of three children, Abedini was born in Tehran in 2003. While going to college, he was active in modeling and was a stylist. He also played futsal.
A friend of Abedini tells IranWire that the young man is tormented all the time.
“Sometimes he says that nobody will remember him in a couple of years. He believes that he’s responsible for the suffering of his parents. Perhaps that’s why he repeatedly says that if the shooter is found he wants retribution and only retribution.”