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 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 Ghazal Ranjkesh, one of the best-known victims of the security forces’ targeted shootings, as told by herself on social media. “Why did you shoot me? Why did you have that smile on your lips?” Ghazal asked the assailant in one of her posts.
"The Shooter didn't Know I'm Bulletproof”
Ghazal is sitting in a bookstore, wearing a white hat. A patch on her right eye can be seen behind her glasses. She is holding a book titled Blindness, a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago that tells the story of an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness afflicting nearly everyone in an unnamed city.
Ghazal, who describes herself as a “writer” on Instagram, has written these words next to her picture, “It has been 30 days since my right eye recorded its last image…During these 30 days, each time I wanted to shed tears I told myself, ‘How can I cry when he could keep smiling with sparkling eyes in such a situation.’”
And when people ask her which eye she would blind when she will find her shooter, she answers, “I’ve said, ‘The color of his eyes was so beautiful, it would be a pity!’”
She wrote in a different post, "The shooter didn't know I'm bulletproof, he didn't know that my spirit and body are too strong for me to retreat out of fear when I see the rifle in his hand and let my mother get shot…No, I’m Ghazal, someone who couldn’t breathe, not because of the pain in her eye. The only thing that she said was, ‘Mother, were you shot? Are you alright?’”
“I have yet to publish my book,” she continued.
In a later post, Ghazal said that she has been writing a fictional historical drama for the past two years.
“The Voice of the Eyes is Stronger than any Outcry”
“Understand my eyes/ You must understand/ the language of the eyes.”
Ghazal said that she put these words together two years ago and added, “The voice of the eyes is stronger than any outcry.” Now, she wrote, she is astonished that the eyes were always a central theme of what she had written before the cincident.
“The voice of the eyes is stronger than any outcry” has become a slogan for supporting protesters who have lost an eye.
In one of her posts on Instagram, she wrote about her name: “It is a Persian name for girls who have beautiful eyes and awesome hair. Moreover, it’s a kind of poem that is very popular in Iranian culture. Ghazal is a poem about love and the lover, and sometimes it is a sad poem because of the separation from the beloved.”
She said that, in the first page of the notebook she is always carrying with her, she had written, “Cry, Cry Ghazal. You can’t have beautiful eyes if you don’t cry!”
Her right eye has been replaced by an artificial ocular globe she calls a “stranger.” This eye was always important to Ghazal because she had an accident when she was a child in which her left eye was badly damaged.
“Thank You for Becoming a Dragon”
Ghazal has used the image of a dragon on Twitter and Instagram.
“Thank you for being my voice. Thank you for becoming a dragon after losing my eye,” she wrote on Instagram.
What she means by “dragon” became clearer in one of the stories she posted on Instagram. It appears that Ghazal wanted to write a book with a theme similar to the story Games of Thrones by American writer George Martin. In this story that takes place in a fantasyland, a member of the Targaryen family loses an eye to capture a dragon. For Ghazal, people who have supported her against the government that robbed her eye are “dragons” of hope and will to continue the fight.
Ghazal marked her 21st birthday on September 18, two days after the death of Mahsa Amini in custody of morality police, which triggered the ongoing wave of protests. She posted a video on Instagram and wrote to herself, “I am writing to you who’s still smiling, who’s still giving energy to everybody, who’s fighting for your goals…I am so thankful that you were on the precipice a thousand times but didn’t fall down, that you witnessed so much rudeness and kept smiling.”
More than four months after her birthday and after losing one eye, Ghazal is still smiling. “When you shot me from a distance of two meters and smiled, were you thinking that I would survive and smile back at you?” she wrote.
Suing for Retribution
On December 21, Ghazal tweeted that she has filed a complaint, asking for the eye-for-an-eye principle (qisas) to be applied: “Many said…that I have to take revenge. In my own heart I hold no grudge because of my own pain, but I have sued and asked for qisas as a representative of thousands of lost eyes…for those who have lost their eyes and suffer in anonymity.”
“You are more beautiful without a patch. You have nothing to hide,” Ghazal tweeted to fellow victims on January 12.
Many days have gone by since Ghazal lost her eye. Now, as she herself put it, she must remember with one eye all the memories she had recorded with two eyes for 21 years.