Intentional Killing of Unarmed Civilians Amounts to Crimes Against Humanity
September 5, 2023 – A new report just released by the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) and the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reveals shocking state violence by Islamic Republic security forces against unarmed civilians in the predominantly Kurdish city of Javanrud, which occurred during the protests that shook Iran in the fall of 2022.
The 100-page report, “Massacre in Javanrud: State Atrocities Against Protesters in Iran’s Kurdish Regions,” is based on hundreds of photos, videos, and detailed interviews conducted with 38 individuals, all of whom were in Javanrud at the time of the atrocities and include eyewitnesses, protesters, family members, others close to the injured, detained, and killed, and doctors and nurses who tried to treat the wounded.
Key findings include:
- Security forces intentionally cornered and shot unarmed protesters, using military-grade machine guns at close range, killing eight civilians, including one child, and injuring at least 80 individuals, including children.
- The wounded were beaten in the streets by security forces and those who tried to help the wounded were shot. The injured could not seek help at the city’s hospitals without risking arrest as security forces were stationed at the medical centers to identify and arrest protesters.
- At least 89 people, including 26 children, were arbitrarily arrested and detained. Many were beaten and tortured while in state custody, including children. Families of the injured, killed, detained, and abused were pressured by the state to remain silent.
“The atrocities committed by Islamic Republic forces in the city of Javanrud, carried out with the full knowledge and direction of state officials and which involved the intentional and systematic murder, maiming, and abuse of unarmed civilians on a large scale, amount to crimes against humanity,” said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI executive director.
The report also identifies some of the perpetrators responsible for the state’s atrocities in Javanrud. Not one state official has been held accountable for the deaths and injuries of the citizens of Javanrud.
The protests in Javanrud were part of the nationwide, anti-government protests in Iran that followed the killing in state custody of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini, only days after her arrest in September 2022 for an allegedly improper hijab. In the course of those protests, which lasted for months, over 500 people were killed by state security forces and over 22,000 people were arrested.
Rebin Rahmani, a board member of KHRN, expressed concern about the increasing wave of arrests of Kurdish activists now taking place on the eve of the anniversary of the uprising, noting that “The Islamic Republic feels there are no repercussions for their crimes in marginalized regions such as Kurdistan and Baluchistan, so it is intensifying its violent and unlawful suppression in these areas.”
“As the one-year anniversary of the ‘Women Life Freedom’ protests approaches, the potential for renewed protest in Iran—and a violent state response aimed at crushing it—is high,” said Ghaemi.
“The international community must remain extraordinarily vigilant, warning the Iranian authorities of intense political and economic consequences at the first sign of state violence,” Ghaemi added.
In anticipation of the anniversary of the protests, the Islamic Republic has increased its repressive activities over the last month, detaining family members of slain protesters, locking up activists, targeting community leaders who have protested the state’s violence, and intensifying its persecution of minority groups.
The report provides recommendations for the international community, including:
- The UN Human Rights Council’s International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran should fully investigate the events in Javanrud from October 2022 – January 2023, report on the atrocities committed by the state, and preserve the evidence in view of subsequent cooperation in any legal proceedings.
- Human rights organizations, researchers, lawyers, and journalists should make every effort to obtain further testimonies, eyewitness accounts, and medical records pertaining to the state’s actions in Javanrud, and submit such evidence to the UNHRC’s Fact-Finding Mission.
- Islamic Republic officials found responsible—whether through issuing the orders or carrying out the acts—should be prosecuted through international courts or national judicial systems under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
- Governments should summon Iranian ambassadors to directly condemn these events and warn the consequences will intensify if such abuses continue; impose political and economic consequences on officials tied to these abuses; and form multilateral coalitions to impose further diplomatic costs on the Islamic Republic.
“Mass protests could erupt again at any time given the level of discontent amongst society in Iran, especially as the one-year anniversary of the start of the protests nears,” said Ghaemi. “Only by demanding accountability and imposing costs on the authorities in Iran for their atrocities can the international community hope to prevent such massacres from being repeated.”