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 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 Mohammad Farzi, who calls himself the Joker of Tehran. The 32-year-old artist started out by performing in street theater shows. After losing 80 percent of his sight in one eye when security forces fired at him during protests, he took the fight for freedom to social media, with a face painted in white, red eyebrows, red nose, and a large red smile. In his Instagram posts, he speaks about hope and laughter.
“I am proud this happened to my eye”
The Joker of Tehran is still treating one eye four months after the night of September 22, 2022, when he was hit by pellets fired by government forces in Tehran.
According to the online institute Tavana, he was trying to help a woman who was being arrested when the security forces opened fire at him.
In his first Instagram message after being shot, he posted a picture of himself and wrote: “Friends! A rumor says my eye has been emptied but, thanks God, the treatment of my eye is going well, and I can see. This week they’re going to put a scleral lens in my eye and after two months I will undergo surgery to have the silicone oil taken out as well as the cataract caused by the blow to my eye. Then they will put in a permanent lens. Thank you for being so concerned about me but don’t worry. The danger is gone, and I have not lost my eye. Thank you and let us hope that better days are on their way.”
In another post, Farzi quoted his doctor as saying that his injured eye has a 20-percent eyesight, but the pellet that went through it entered a sinus near his brain and two other pellets remained lodged in his body, including one next to his main artery. Another three pellets did not penetrate deeply into his body and were removed at home.
He is scheduled to undergo surgery on March 1 to have his eye fixed.
“I’m not a hero. I just did my duty as a human being, I’m not sorry about what I did and I’m proud that this happened to my eye for the sake of Iranian people,” he wrote next to a picture of himself.
“We will never lose hope”
The hashtag #eye_for_freedom can be seen on most of Farzi’s postings, such as the one in which he wrote: “Not only me, but many of us have been hit by pellets, but we will never lose hope in the path that we’ve taken and we shall remain firm and will endure. We are striving for a good day that is coming.”
The Joker of Tehran has now become an important source of information about those who have been shot in the eyes and he regularly posts new pictures and names of victims.
Farzi visits the victims as well. When one of them, Kowsar Eftekhari, underwent surgery, he and others visited her in the hospital. It appears that by sharing their pain the victims find new strength.
They are young and middle-aged men and women who have written on top of their pages on social media: “The voice of the eye is louder than any scream.”
“I want to live every moment of my life in joy”
The Joker of Tehran was a martial arts athlete as well. There is a picture of him winning a medal in 2014. There are some videos of him demonstrating martial arts movements and self-defense techniques. In 2016, he won a gold medal at the Martyrs of Defenders of the Shrine Cup, named in honor of those who are fighting in Syria under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
His Instagram page is filled with pictures of him next to theater, music and television artists such as Reza Banafshekhah, Sanaz Samavati, Ali Nassirian and Behzad Farahani. The page also shows pictures of Farzi participating in charity programs.
The page also shows images of Farzi in a clown outfit in the streets. One video shows him dancing in a street on International Dance Day. Next to a picture of him jumping into air, he writes: “I want to live every moment of my life in joy and with a smile and share them with others. Let us give each other smiles instead of material things. The world would be a more beautiful place.”
When we go through the nine years of Farzi’s activities on Instagram, we discover a man with a variety of interests, an artist who has traveled many roads and now supports those who have been shot in the eyes by the repressive forces of the Islamic Republic.