GECHR: Iranian forces committing massacres by killing peaceful demonstrators in Ahwaz and Iran

Gulf European Centre for Human Rights


GECHR: Iranian forces committing massacres by killing peaceful demonstrators in Ahwaz and Iran

Ahwazi protest (Dur Untash Centre)


19th November 2019   


According to reports from inside Iran, Iranian authorities have used military forces to stop protests in the country since November 15, 2019. Social media footage, eyewitness testimonies from people on the ground and information gathered from human rights activists outside Ahwaz reveal a horrific pattern of unlawful killings committed by Iranian security forces in several Ahwazi and Kurdish cities and other areas of Iran, which have used excessive and lethal force to crush largely peaceful protests in more than 100 cities.

“At least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to credible reports received by Amnesty International”. Amnesty believes that “the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed”. State media have reported only a handful of protester deaths, as well as the deaths of at least four members of the security forces. State media reported that, as of 17 November, more than 1,000 protesters had been arrested since the protests began.

However, the Ahwazi sources informed the GECHR that the number of victims in Ahwaz exceeded 40 dead and dozens injured and about 200 detainees, which means that the victims in Ahwaz constitute one-third of the victims in Iran. The Kurdistan region after Ahwaz is the second region in the number of victims, sources reported.

The GECHR also reported that the Iranian authorities deliberately used military force against the demonstrators, which means a war crime. Senior government officials, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Interior Minister and President Hassan Rouhani, and a number of military leaders have issued statements describing the demonstrators as "villains" and have given security forces the green light to crush the demonstrations. This shows that the Iranian authorities have a programmed plan to confront peaceful demonstrators through violence, murder and detention.

On November 16, less than a day after the protests began, the authorities carried out a near-permanent shutdown of the Internet in all of Iran, resulting in the closure of almost all online communications for people inside Iran. The resulting information blackout is a deliberate attempt by the authorities to prevent people from sharing photos and videos of the deadly force being used by security forces against protestors.

According to human rights sources, the number of deaths in the city of Mashour (Mahshar) and Jarrahi was very high where the authorities used the military attack against the demonstrators.

The sources reported: 20 people were killed in the city of Mashor (mainly Al-Kora district) and Jarrahi, 8 were killed in the city of Arjan (Behbahan), six protestors were killed in Ramez (Ramhormoz)- five protestors were killed in Al-Muhammerah, five were killed in the city of Abu Mussa (Sarbandar/ Bandar Khomeini), 2 people were killed in the city of Abadan, three other people were killed in the city of Ahwaz, and one killed in Tustar (Shushtar). It means that 50 people were killed in Al-Ahwaz.

Amnesty International also reported the number of death in each city in Iran:  Boukan, West Azerbaijan province: 4 death- Boumehen, Tehran province: 2 death- Esfahan, Esfahan province: 1 death- Islamshahr, Tehran province: 1 – Javanroud, Kermanshah province: 14- Karaj, Alborz province: 4- Kermanshah, Kermanshah province: 16- Mariwan, Kurdistan province: 9- Robatkarim, Tehran province: 4- Sadra, Fars province: 6- Sanandaj, Kurdistan province: 1- Shahriyar, Tehran Province: 1- Shiraz, Fars province: 6- Sirjan, Kerman province: 1 and Tehran, Tehran province: 1 death.

Overall, the number of deaths in the whole Iran has reached 121 death.

Al-Ahwaz 50 dead

Kurdistan 44 dead

Fars         12 dead

Tehran     9 dead

Karaj        4 dead

Isfahan     1 dead

Kerman     1 dead

However, some other sources stated that the number of deaths has reached 200 people. Mainly Tehran and Karaj.

Irina Tsukerman, an international law expert in an interview with the Gulf European Centre for Human Rights said that the Iran authorities’ indiscriminate targeting of peaceful protesters inside the country is absolutely a human rights abuse and violation of international norms. The Iranian authorities are massacring the very citizens it is obligated to protect. Furthermore, it is clearly targeting Ahwazi Arabs and Kurds disproportionally. As the numbers of people killed are far greater in those areas than at any other mass gathering anywhere with majority Persian populations.

Irina pointed out that “clearly the Iranian authorities are using the opportunity to send a message that non-Persians are second class citizens and that it has full power and impunity to kill even women and children if they speak up for their rights. These latest attacks on the protesters are particularly ironic given that in Ahwaz the protests started over a confirmed poisoning of a dissident Arab poet rather than over economic issues as is the case with the rest of the country”.  

Before the outbreak of protests in Iran on November 15, Iranian security forces launched a brutal crackdown and mass arrests of Ahwazi activists and prominent cultural figures, following massive protests after the death of 29-year-old Ahwazi poet Hassan al-Haidari on Sunday (November 10th). Ahwazi sources confirmed that dozens of writers, intellectuals and civil rights activists were arrested in different areas of al-Ahwaz in southwestern Iran. The sources pointed out that more than 24 people were arrested, including the poet's brother, father and uncle, who were reportedly detained for refusing to give a false interview to the state media claiming that Hassan's death was not suspicious.

Irina also stated that the Iranian authorities are targeting Ahwazi for reprisals in double ways: First, by provoking mass indignation and horror with a cynical murder of a popular young critic, who helped Ahwazi population maintain morale and a fighting spirit despite humiliation and widespread oppression and abuse, and then when they rose up naturally in response to the lawlessness of the regime, by attacking them for that with overwhelming and grotesque force, engaging in targeted murders of civilians for which no one will ever be held responsible, but on the contrary, regime forces – bet they the police, the Basijis, or the IRGC, will only be praised and rewarded by the authorities.

Irina added: “The Iranian authorities regard territories belonging to non-Persians as land to be colonized and used for payment of expenditures on corrupt purposes by members of the government, as well as for regime terrorism and wars abroad. The people who live there are an obstacle to the full colonialization of the land. And the regime uses various techniques to depopulate and ethnically cleanse these areas. Resorting to murders during times of uprisings such as now is just another way for the regime to meet its goal. This type of dehumanization, if not a pre-planned genocide, can certainly very easily lead to one and certainly, coupled with the propaganda portraying non-Persians as separatists and terrorists, leads to the mentality that makes genocides possible”.

The Gulf European Centre for Human Rights condemned the policy of the Iranian authorities to use violence against the demonstrators and stressed that the authorities must end this brutal and deadly crackdown immediately and show respect for human life. Under international law, security forces may only use lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. But the Iranian authorities have programmed the violence and military offensive after the Internet was cut off on the citizens so that it could easily exterminate Arabs in Ahwaz through attacking the cities and areas by security forces, the IRGC and other militias.

The GECHR is also calling on the Iranian authorities to respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including through lifting the near-total block on internet access designed to restrict the flow of information about the crackdown to the outside world.

The GECHR calls upon the international community and the Human Rights Council to condemn the policy of the Iranian authorities to arrest and kill a large number of Ahwazi people in an attempt to suppress any peaceful protest. GECHR also calls for the investigation and accountability of those involved in the killing of Ahwazi citizens. Therefore, the Centre demands the opening of a file in the International Criminal Court against some Iranian leaders such as Ali Khamenei, Hassan Rouhani, Interior Minister, Revolutionary Guards commander Hussein Salami and Minister of Intelligence in Iran Mahmoud Alavi because of the use of violence and killing innocent people in order to end the protests in Al-Ahwaz and other parts of Iran.

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