Hossein Raisi, a human rights lawyer and lecturer at the University of Carleton in Canada, has told IranWire that according to documents and information he has received, Iran's armed security forces and intelligence agencies have received orders to suppress and arrest protesting students. Mass anti-government protests have continued across Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody last month.
Arrested students are being held with drug criminals and dangerous inmates in some Iranian cities. Students and schoolchildren across the country have joined the nationwide protests in recent days, leading to clashes with teachers and security forces, who have arrested some of those who they suspect of having taken part in demonstrations.
IranWire spoke to Raisi about the situation in Iran.
Is there any code about how to treat arrested children according to Iranian law?
Security forces do not have the right to intervene in children's cases. But, according to a recent order, cases of arrested children are now meant to be handed over to them. This is very dangerous and would put children in a difficult situation.
This is one of the issues that needs the immediate attention of the head of Iran's judiciary. Also, according to the law, children under the age of 18 should only be interrogated in the presence of the police or preferably a female police officer.
Where are the arrested children being held now and which security organisation is in charge?
Several children who have been arrested in recent protests are being held in drug detention centres, with criminals charged with drug-related crimes. This is very concerning.
People under the age of 18 must never be held with any criminal over the age of 18, according to the law. This is a legal requirement, not a recommendation.
If children are held even for 24 hours, they should be in juvenile centers [and not held with adult criminals].
Which courts have the right to hear children's cases? Do children have the right to a lawyer?
Children's cases should be heard in specially designed courts. This has not been the case for the children who have recently been arrested by security forces.
Children should have immediate access to their families and a lawyer of their choice following arrest, according to the law. These arrested children have not been given the right to contact a lawyer.
Meanwhile, an investigation should be done immediately with the presence of the child's lawyer. In recent arrests, children under the age of 18 have not been allowed to choose a lawyer for themselves. I must note that lawyers are not allowed to enter the security detention centers.
Have the parents of arrested children been informed of the time and circumstances of their child’s arrest?
According to the documents we’ve received, the parents have not been informed about the arrest of their children, however, the law states that families must be informed immediately.
Currently, we are aware of cases where parents have repeatedly visited detention centers for several days in a row, and they have not been allowed to see their child. In addition, security forces have not respected all the standards that were emphasised in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Code of Criminal Procedure in Iran.
Have many children have been arrested so far?
We do not know the exact numbers, but we estimate that around 300 children between the ages of 12-13 and 18-19 are in police custody at this time. Our estimate is based on an initial report from the Islamic Republic's officials on the arrested children.
Most of the children have been detained for a very long time without their families being allowed to visit. Visiting inmates in security detention centers is subject to strict procedures that make visits almost impossible. Until the children are transferred to juvenile centers, they will not be able to receive visitors.
Where in Iran have most of these children been arrested?
Tehran has the highest number of arrested children, due to its large population. Children have also been arrested in cities across the country. The cities of Kurdistan province and the city of Zahedan have a significant number of detained children. Most of the arrested children are from Kurdish towns and Zahedan. Also, most of the children who were killed were from Zahedan.
In its recent statement on International Children's Day, the Association for the Protection of Children's Rights raised concerns about the current critical situation of children in Iran. It also announced that 28 children have so far been killed in the most recent wave of protests, most of them from the deprived Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
Have children been arrested from schools or the scene of protests?
It depends. Several children have been arrested in the streets during protests, some have been arrested from their homes and some from within their schools. Today, we learned that the security forces raided many schools and arrested several students.
Some of the children who were arrested during the early days of the protests have been released, but some are still in police custody, and some have been repeatedly detained.
There are still some remaining detainees from the first days of the protests and gradually, as school students joined the protests in different cities, the number of arrested children increased.
Have families been informed of the arrests?
The families of the children have managed to get information about where their child is being held by putting pressure on the security courts in different cities. The forces who have arrested the children have not contacted their families. In many cases, the friends of the arrested children have been the ones to inform their families.
Have many girls been detained?
We do not have clear information on this but since many schoolgirls have joined the protests, we estimate there are more girls than boys in detention centers. The government is targeting schools and high schools, and most of these are girls' high schools. Schoolgirls are currently protesting by removing their headscarves, and we predict that the number of arrested girls will increase as a result.
Where should children be held when they are arrested for protesting?
The law insists that children should not be arrested if possible. Both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Code of Criminal Procedure in Iran say that, as far as possible, arrested children should be handed over to their families or legal guardians, and not be detained. We don't say that children are criminals or have been accused of crimes - we describe them as "violators of legal rights".
If security forces arrest children, [the police] should transfer them to juvenile centers.
None of the security agencies have the right to hold a person under the age of 18, this includes police detention centers, security agencies, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence, the Ministry of Intelligence, and drug detention centers. If there is no other option but to arrest a child, and there are no juvenile centers in the city, the child should be transferred to the nearest city where there is one.