Iran: Repression continues two years after nationwide protests

Iranian security forces shot hundreds of people who took part in widespread protests sparked by the death of Jina Mahsa Amini while she was in the custody of the country’s so-called morality police, top independent human rights investigators said on Monday.

Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the International Fact-Finding Mission on Iran – a group of Council-appointed independent experts – said that Ms. Amini’s death in September 2022 was “unlawful and caused by physical violence” for which the State is responsible.

Chairperson Sara Hossain told the forum’s 47 Member States that after Ms. Amini’s death, young women and schoolchildren “were at the forefront” of nationwide protests. 

“The entire State apparatus was mobilised with security forces using firearms, including AK-47s and Uzis as we documented in some areas, resulting in injuries and deaths,” she said.

Acts of defiance

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There are “credible figures” that indicate there were 551 deaths, at least 49 women and 68 children, “and we found that those occurred in 26 out of the 31 provinces of Iran over multiple months”, the Mission found.

Ms. Hossain explained that many protesters “removed their hijab in public places as an act of defiance against long-standing discriminatory laws and practices”.

Men and boys joined in the protests in solidarity too, the Council heard, along with minorities who demanded equality.

”What we found was that security forces shot at protesters and also at bystanders at very short distances in a targeted fashion, causing injuries to their heads, necks, torsos, genital areas, but particularly to the eyes,” reported Ms. Hossain. “We found hundreds of protesters had these life changing injuries, with many of them now blinded and branded essentially for life marked as dissidents.”

Challenges gathering evidence

Despite the many challenges the Mission was facing, such as total lack of access to the country and no cooperation on the part of the Iranian Government, it was able to collect and preserve over 27,000 items of evidence.

It conducted a total of 134 in-depth interviews with victims and witnesses, including 49 women and 85 men, both inside and outside the country, and gathered evidence and analysis from experts on digital and medical forensics and on domestic and international law.

The human rights probe noted that 30 September 2022 had become known as “Bloody Friday” in Zahedan city after credible sources indicated that security forces had killed 104 protesters and bystanders, mostly men and boys.

The probe also took note of the Iranian Government’s claim that 54 security officers had been killed and many others injured.

Spike in executions, including children

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran also presented his report to the Human Rights Council on Monday. 

Addressing the Geneva-based UN rights body, Javaid Rehman offered an overview of the most grave violations registered, which include a spike in death penalty sentences and executions, including children, and a continuous clampdown on women’s rights.

Now, at the end of his six-year tenure, Mr. Rehman has never been granted access to the country, despite frequent requests. 

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Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran addresses the media. (file)

The Special Rapporteur stated that 834 people were executed in 2023, marking a 43 per cent rise from the previous year, with a significant portion related to drug offenses. 

“Despite serious concerns expressed by my mandate and by the international community, children continued to be executed in Iran with at least one reported execution in 2023,” he said, adding that at least 23 women were executed last year.

He also raised concerns about the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities and the harassment and detention of human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists.

Citing the violent suppression of protests in 2022 following the death of 22-year-old Ms. Amini, he described how public protests had grown into the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. 

State authorities had behaved “with complete impunity” and unlawfully killed hundreds of people, including dozens of women and children.

‘Chilling’ use of AI

Ms. Hossain told the Human Rights Council that the Fact-Finding Mission had received “chilling reports on the use by the State of artificial intelligence (AI), including through new mobile apps, to monitor and enforce compliance by women and girls with mandatory hijab rules,” explained Ms. Hossain. 

The Special Rapporteur, too, criticized Iran’s enforcement of “gender segregation and draconian measures”, such as threatening unveiled women with vehicle confiscation and imposing harsh punishments, including flogging, for “improper veiling”.

Gains overshadowed by violations 

Despite some positive steps, such as amendments to drug trafficking laws, widespread human rights violations persist, overshadowing progress. Urgent action is needed for Iran to uphold its international obligations, underscored the Special Rapporteur. 

Rapporteurs and other rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council are not UN staff and are independent of any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and receive no salary for their work.



  1. Were there any specific measures taken by the international community to address the ongoing repression in Iran despite the significant number of deaths and injuries mentioned in the article?

    1. Yes, Emily_1985, the international community actively condemned the ongoing repression in Iran following the tragic events mentioned in the article. Various countries and human rights organizations have called for accountability and justice for the victims. Efforts are being made to raise awareness and put pressure on the Iranian government to respect human rights.

  2. Do you think the ongoing repression in Iran will lead to more international intervention?

  3. As an observer of human rights violations around the world, it is truly disheartening to read about the ongoing repression in Iran. The violence and atrocities committed against innocent protestors must be condemned and addressed by the international community.

  4. It’s heartbreaking to see the ongoing repression and violence against peaceful protesters in Iran. The loss of lives, especially of women and children, is unacceptable. The international community must hold the Iranian State accountable for these heinous acts.

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