At least two children were arrested and one boy injured in the first days of fresh protests over food price hikes in Iran. According to HRANA, the detained pair were Mohammad Afravi and Hadi Neysi, both 16 and arrested in Susangerd, Khuzestan. The wounded boy, aged seven or eight, was shot at by riot police and the Basij in the city of Sureshjan on Saturday, May 14.
According to the Twitter account 1500tasvir, which is collating evidence of the protests as they happen, some members of the security forces have been using schools as their bases.
No Learning From the Crimes of November 2019
Iran’s nationwide protests of November 2019 were triggered by the sudden 300 percent increase to gas prices imposed by the government. Amnesty International has been able to confirm at least 22 boys and one girl were shot dead, aged between 12 and 17. The true figure is likely to be significantly higher.
In a detailed report entitled “They shot our children’: Killings of minors in Iran’s November 2019 protests”, Amnesty stressed again that the firing of live ammunition at unarmed protesters was illegal. In at least 10 of the cases, the child died as a result of gunshots to the head or torso, indicating they were also shooting to kill.
Arrests a Rights Violation
The arrest of two teenagers is a violation of their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, both of which are signed by Iran. This is true regardless of whether or not they were taking part in the protests.
An Iranian lawyer based in the country, who asked not to be named, told IranWire: “The situation of children’s rights in Iran is a complete disaster and it is not limited to recent events.”
A key part of the Convention, Articles 12 to 17, requires signatory states to ensure children have freedom of expression, conscience and religion. “This right,” Article 13 states, “shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice. And Article 15 requires members to “recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
“In addition to this convention,” the lawyer said, “we also have the 2020 [domestic] Law to Protect Children and Adolescents, which relates to anybody under 18. It lists examples of perilous situation for children, one of which is about delinquency; even if a child breaks the law by participating in street protests, they must be protected by the Justice Ministry’s Office of the Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents.“To be specific, they must not be taken to a security agency prison. By accusing a child of security offenses, the regime actually pushes them towards such activities. Charges like these will undoubtedly affect their lives in a negative way, even aside from the fact that their rights are not being respected.”Another cause of “serious harm” to both youngsters and their future, he added, was the widely-reported use of child soldiers in the Basij. This has been the case both in November 2019 and during the recent unrest.What is to be done with the children arrested during the recent protests is an unknown quantity. This lawyer believes it will be up to the Revolutionary Court, the usual court for those charged with security offences, “and this is a disaster for children. It will be up to the Justice Ministry, the Welfare Organization and the Ministry of Education to take action to protect their rights. Because according to the Islamic Republic’s own laws, they must manage the situation when a child is in danger, even if they have indeed broken the law.”
In November 2019 and now, most affected Iranian cities have been besieged by security forces and riot police: burly men dressed in dark uniforms and equipped with helmets, shield and firearms.
The clinical psychiatrist Saba Alaleh has said this menacing presence can be scarring for children too. “Their social psychology is in the process of taking shape. What is happening in Iranian cities can leave children and adolescents with psychological scars.”
The lawyer who spoke to IranWire said civil society institutions have little to offer young people in terms of their protection at protests: “Civil organizations haven’t even dared to issue statements about the current protests because when they did that in November 2019 it was used as a pretext to close them down and put their leaders on trial.
“What these institutions can do now is to introduce volunteer lawyers and social workers to work with the arrested children or their families.” Most of those protesting against the bad economic situation in Iran, he pointed out, are thought to be lower-income people who are less likely to even be aware of their basic rights, let alone able to afford a lawyer.