In the runup to the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in detention and subsequent protests, prominent human rights groups condemned Iran’s crackdown on protesters and repressive policies. “The international community must pursue pathways for justice at the international level to address systemic impunity for Iranian officials responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings of protesters and widespread torture,” Amnesty International said on September 13. Human Rights Watch warned that authorities were ramping up repression on civil society to prevent public commemoration of Amini’s death. The following are excerpted statements from human rights groups.
The international community must pursue pathways for justice at the international level to address systemic impunity for Iranian officials responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings of protesters and widespread torture, Amnesty International said today, as Iran marks the one-year anniversary of the “Woman Life Freedom” uprising.
Over the past year, Iranian authorities have committed a litany of crimes under international law to eradicate any challenge to their iron grip on power. These include hundreds of unlawful killings; the arbitrary execution of seven protesters; tens of thousands of arbitrary arrests; widespread torture, including rape of detainees; widespread harassment of victims’ families who call for truth and justice; and reprisals against women and girls who defy discriminatory compulsory veiling laws.
“The Iranian authorities have spent a year inflicting unspeakable cruelty on people in Iran for courageously challenging decades of repression and inequality. One year after Mahsa/Zhina Amini’s death in custody, not one official has been criminally investigated, let alone prosecuted and punished for crimes committed during, and in the aftermath of, the uprising,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The anniversary of the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ protests offers a stark reminder for countries around the world of the need to initiate criminal investigations into the heinous crimes committed by the Iranian authorities under universal jurisdiction. Government statements calling on the Iranian authorities to halt the unlawful use of firearms against protesters, stop torturing detainees, and release all individuals detained for peacefully exercising their human rights remain as crucial as ever. These actions show victims they are not alone in their darkest hour.”
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Human Rights Watch
Iranian authorities have ramped up their repression on civil society as the one-year anniversary of the death in custody of Mahsa Jina Amini that resulted nationwide protests nears, Human Rights Watch said today. All delegations of UN member states meeting Iranian counterparts during the annual UN General Assembly leaders’ week in New York should raise the plight of activists and put it at the center of their engagement.
Iranian authorities have increased their crackdown on peaceful dissent and expression through intimidation, arrests, prosecutions, and trials of activists, artists, dissidents, lawyers, academics, students, and family members of those who were killed during the 2022 protests. They have also responded to the widespread defiance of the compulsory hijab by ramping up their efforts to impose the dress code on women, using a range of tactics, including legal summonses, new legislative initiatives, and increasing pressure on private business to impose hijab rules.
“Iranian authorities are trying to impose a chokehold on dissent to prevent public commemoration of Mahsa Jina Amini’s death in custody, which has become the symbol of the government’s systematic oppression of women, injustice and impunity,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But Iranian authorities can't erase the mounting frustration, louder calls for fundamental change, and the resistance and solidarity in Iranian society in the face of mounting repression.”
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Miaan Group and 46 Human Rights Organizations
A year ago, Mahsa Jina Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, died in the custody of the morality police after being arrested over alleged “improper” hijab in Tehran. Her death ignited a wave of national protests that further challenged the Islamic Republic’s autocratic rule and exposed its human rights violations, including systematic violation of women’s rights. Her death inspired a powerful slogan, that originated in the Kurdish women’s movement and soon echoed across Iran and the world: “Woman, life, freedom!” A year later, women, dissenting voices and ethnic minorities are still targeted in Iran.
The “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprisings represent the first ever national protests in support of women’s rights. For years, and especially in the months before the death of Mahsa Jina Amini in police custody, the Iranian public had grown exhausted and outraged by the violence of the morality police and the pressure on women. Mahsa’s death ignited the pent-up anger of Iranians, especially women who were fed up with state violence, discrimination, and patriarchal rule. Building on decades of women’s resistance and the persistence of the women’s movement for equality, Iranian women played a central role in these protests. In fact, these protests should be seen as the culmination of over four decades of struggle by Iranian women, including against the mandatory hijab laws–struggles that have become intertwined with women’s daily lives. Women have participated in civil disobedience campaigns, organized online and offline networks, and challenged the mandatory hijab laws by removing their headscarves in public. They have faced violence, harassment, and imprisonment for their activism. Women have been a critical force in these protests, leading the resistance against the government’s patriarchal and discriminatory policies and demanding equal rights.
Iran’s security forces and judiciary responded to the protests by rounding up and detaining rights defenders, including hundreds of women human rights defenders. Over the course of a few months, they arrested hundreds of women’s rights activists, feminists, civil society activists, scholars, lawyers, and journalists in a preemptive effort to prevent them from joining or leading protests. While some were released on a general pardon, many still face charges or remain in prison, including Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohamadi, two journalists who covered the death and funeral of Mahsa Jina Amini. As the anniversary of Amini’s death approaches, state security has resumed detaining activists, including 12 in northern Iran and relatives of political prisoners and protesters killed by police. These pressures have severely affected Iran’s civil society, which was already weakened by decades of closed civic space and repression. Since the start of these protests, many activists have received heavy prison sentences and some have been forced to leave the country.
The protest movement has been remarkable for its capacity to build a diverse coalition that transcends ethnic, class, and regional divides in opposition to the Islamic Republic. What started as a women-oriented protest over the death of Mahsa Jina Amini soon expanded to other demands, such as economic justice and political freedom and change. Despite government suppression of the protests, the underlying drivers remain and the gap between the state and significant portions of society continues to widen.
One of the groups that has suffered the most from the government’s repression are ethnic minorities, who have faced killings, arrests, and attacks for decades. Building on decades of systematic discrimination against ethnic minority communities, such as Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, Turkamans and Turk-Azarbaijanis, the government dealt with protesters from these communities with greater brutality. In fact, authorities justified bloody crackdowns in regions with majority ethnic minority populations by labeling protests as separatist movements. Women from these ethnic groups have faced double repression, as they have been discriminated against both for their gender and ethnicity.
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