The Iranian authorities are arbitrarily arresting, intimidating and harassing relatives of children gunned down or beaten to death by security forces in connection with the ongoing nationwide protests, in a “sinister attempt to coverup their crimes,” Amnesty International says in a new report.
In research published on December 10, the London-based human rights group says the “unlawful killings of children by Iran’s security forces continue unabated”. It gives the names and details of at least 44 children killed since the protests erupted in the middle of September and describes the “heartless violence” inflicted upon their families.
“The authorities have not only condemned families of children killed to a lifetime of inconsolable sadness, but they have also inflicted extreme mental anguish upon them through cruel restrictions on burials, commemorations and relentless intimidation aimed at enforcing silence,” Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, says in a statement.
Such practices “violate the absolute prohibition on cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment,” Morayef says, urging all states to “exercise universal jurisdiction to criminally investigate Iranian officials involved in militarized attacks on demonstrators, including children”.
Amnesty International says security forces shot 34 of the 44 identified child victims of the state crackdown on protests with live ammunition in the heart, head or other vital organs; at least four were killed by metal pellets fired at close range; five died from injuries caused by beatings; one girl died after being struck on the head with a tear gas canister.
The victims include 39 boys aged between two and 17, and five girls aged between six and 17.
Children represent 14 percent of overall deaths of protesters and bystanders recorded by Amnesty International, which exceeds 300 since September.
According to foreign-based Iranian human rights group, at least 458 people have been killed in the crackdown by security forces, including 63 children and 29 women. More than 18,000 people have reportedly been detained.
Amnesty International says the authorities have “routinely harassed and intimidated the families of child victims to coerce them into silence or to force them to accept narratives absolving authorities of responsibility for the deaths of their loved ones in written statements or video recordings broadcast on state television”.
The relatives of at least 13 child victims were subjected to coercion including “arbitrary arrest and detention, threats to bury the bodies of their loved ones in unidentified location, and threats to kill, rape, detain or otherwise harm bereaved parents and their surviving children”.
According to Amnesty International, the authorities have consistently denied responsibility for the killing of at least 19 of the child victims, attributing 12 of these deaths on attacks by “hired terrorists” or “unknown persons”, three to suicidal or accidental falls from heights, one to a suicidal or accidental drug overdose, one to a dog bite, and one to a motorcycle accident and another to a stampede.
The authorities questioned the deaths of nine children from Iran’s Sunni Baluch minority.
According to Amnesty International, under-18s from Iran’s “oppressed” Baluch and Kurdish minorities have been the most targeted, representing over 60 percent of the 44 recorded child victims.
Eighteen of those killed (40 percent) were Baluchis from Sistan and Baluchistan Province, and 10 (20 percent) were Kurds from Kurdistan, Kermanshah and West Azerbaijan provinces.
“The authorities have been killing children in a bid to crush the spirit of resistance among the country’s youth and retain their iron grip on power at any cost. And yet despite that, many children have courageously continued to take to the streets in search of a future without political oppression and inequality,” Morayef says.