HRW: Iranian security forces firing on and killing protesters

Iranian security forces have ruthlessly cracked down on widespread anti-government protests with excessive and lethal force throughout Iran, Human Rights Watch said today.

Based on videos of protests, and interviews with witnesses and a security force member, Human Rights Watch documented numerous incidents of Iranian security forces unlawfully using excessive or lethal force against protesters in 13 cities across Iran. Videos showed security forces using shotguns, assault rifles, and handguns against protesters in largely peaceful and often crowded settings, altogether killing and injuring hundreds. In some cases, they shot at people who were running away.

“The Iranian security forces’ brutal response to protests across many cities indicates concerted action by the government to crush dissent with cruel disregard for life,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The security forces’ widespread shooting of protesters only serves to fuel anger against a corrupt and autocratic government.”

Protests began on September 16, 2022, after 22-year-old Mahsa (Jina) Amini’s death in the custody of Iran’s abusive “morality police”. Concerned governments should cooperate to increase pressure on Iran and undertake a United Nations-led independent inquiry into serious abuses committed during the protests and recommend avenues for holding those responsible to account.

Human Rights Watch verified 16 videos posted on social media that depict protests from September 17 to 22. The videos show police and other security forces using excessive and lethal force against protesters in Tehran, the capital, and the cities of Divandarreh, Garmsar, Hamedan, Kerman, Mashhad, Mehrshahr, Rasht, and Shiraz. They include instances of security forces using firearms, such as handguns and Kalashnikov-pattern assault rifles. Human Rights Watch also interviewed five witnesses to the crackdowns in Sanandaj, Marivan, Saghez, and Mashhad, and a security forces member.

Human Rights Watch also analyzed photos and videos showing grievous, and sometimes lethal, injuries to demonstrators. This research did not include the deadly crackdown by security forces in Zahedan on September 30, nor subsequent attacks against protesters, including on Sharif University Campus in Tehran on October 2.

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