IranWire recently reported that 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 anti-government demonstrations. 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 as told by themselves. 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 could make their identities and medical available to international legal authorities.
This is the story of Kowsar Khoshnoodi Kia, a member of Iran’s Women’s National Archery Team who has won medals in national and international competitions. She recently appeared in a video, explaining how she had lost sight in one eye when security forces fired at her.
“I don’t feel sad for myself”
On the night of December 9, 2022, residents of the western city of Kermanshah took to the streets to protest. Amid teargas smoke and sounds of shooting, Kowsar and her father were both shot at by security forces. Two pellets lodged in her left hand and left eye. As she puts it, she now sees the world with one eye. And the pellet that damaged the hand that pulls the arrow has made her life even more difficult.
“People in riot police uniform shot at us and my father and I were wounded. Two shots hit my father’s left hand, three shots hit my right hand and one shot hit my left eye. I shall never regret what happened. I’ve never felt regret for being there on that day, at that time. Maybe if this had happened to me as a result of a normal accident, I would have never returned to life, but now that I have lost the sight of one eye for a purpose, I don’t feel sad for myself and for what happened, not even for a moment.”
After the media reported the comments made by Kowsar Khoshnoodi Kia - or Mahbanoo, as she likes to be called - changed her Instagram page from private to public and posted a message, saying that the video had been “private.” She said she “had not given an interview to a news agency or network, foreign or domestic.”
IranWire has learned that a number of victims of the Islamic Republic’s security forces who have lost their eyes are under surveillance and have been threatened to remain silent. Some of the victims told IranWire that they have been summoned or arrested, and sometimes forced to sign papers they were not allowed to read. They suspect that these documents were pledges to remain silent and not to take part in more protests.
Who is Kowsar Khoshnoodi Kia?
Some of her teammates with the National Archery Team call her a “genius” in her field. She has won medals at international competitions and her Instagram page has many pictures of her aiming at a target.
Kowsar Khoshnoodi Kia is also an activist who has spoken out many times about the discriminations that Iranian women athletes are facing, shortcomings in Iranian sports and officials’ interference
In June 2022, during a gathering to celebrate medal-winners at Parsian Hotel in Kermanshah, she went to the podium and addressed government officials about the issues of medical insurance for Iran’s athletes and their salaries.
In August 2022, Kowsar and fellow archers Hessameddin Kowsar, Vida Halimian, Hamzeh Nekouei and Raheleh Farsi decided to boycott the National Archery Team’s training camp before the Islamic Solidarity Games to protest discrimination and injustice.
IranWire reported at the time that the main reason for the boycott was that a senior military commander close to the Archery Federation had pressured the head coach of the national team to send his son to international competitions as a member of the team.
In her posts on Instagram in the past weeks, she has published her and her teammates’ protests against various forms of discrimination, including gender discrimination in sports.
Kowsar was highly talented and was ready to shine at international competitions. After achieving championship in provincial competitions, she joined the National Archery Team in 2020.
Kowsar, Gisa Baibordi and Raheleh Farsi won a silver medal in team competitions at the 2021 Asian Archery Championship Games.
After winning a bronze medal at the 2022 Asian competition, she told reporters that her goal main was to climb the podium at the 2028 Olympic Games.
Kowsar lost sight in one eye and her left hand is damaged, but she said, “I have many goals and I will try to reach them harder than before.”
“A fearful heart is a dead heart.”
In one of her postings on social media, Kowsar quoted modern Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou: “You call me by name/I know not your name/ You gesticulate/I cannot gesticulate/to tell you something of myself/ I have only my eyes.”
Look through Kowsar’s postings on Instagram and you will discover a young woman filled with hope for herself and others, someone in love with poetry, music and blue roses.
She dedicated her medal at the Asian games to “all the daughters of my country who endeavor with everything that they have to realize their dreams and who withstand the adversities of life.”
Kowsar ended the story of her ordeal by saying, “In all the competitions I participated in, in those moments when I was very anxious and felt that I might not be able to do something, I had one sentence that I always repeated to myself: ‘“A fearful heart is a dead heart.’”
The archer’s last Instagram post had a grim photograph of her with an eyepatch, gazing at the camera with her other beautiful eye and a smiling face.