Amnesty International reports that Iranian security forces killed at least 304 people, including children, during the five days of protest in November 2019, using unlawful lethal force by shooting the majority of people in the head or torso, “indicating intent to kill”.
This massacre was largely covered up at the time due to an internet blackout, designed to stop protesters from communicating with each other or the rest of the world, which obstructs the research into these human rights violations. To date, no one has been held accountable for this horrific crime.
Amnesty even admits that we may never know the true number of victims because of the cover-up, although they have done their best to share the stories of those we do know about on a new website dedicated to the protests.
What Happened in November 2019?
Protests erupted across Iran on November 15, 2019, in response to the government’s tripling of fuel prices overnight, which would hit impoverished people the hardest. This quickly turned into the biggest anti-establishment protests since the 1979 revolution, with people loudly and proudly calling for regime change.
Videos of the protests and the government’s crackdown appeared online, where they were authenticated and analyzed by Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps. On November 16, Amnesty says that “at least 100 unarmed protesters and bystanders” were killed, even though international human rights law bans the use of lethal force unless there is an “imminent threat of death or serious injury”.
The government then ordered an internet blackout, which was confirmed by several freedoms of expression non-governmental organizations, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the security forces to go further.
Between November 21 and 27, the internet was slowly restored, although much evidence of the state’s human rights abuses was lost. Many witnesses told Amnesty that they deleted videos and the like from their phones for fear of being caught with it.
Amnesty had already released the evidence of those first 100 deaths at this point, although Iran’s Mission to the United Nations and other Iranian authorities denied this. But, through relentless crosschecking of information from relatives, human rights activists, and journalists, Amnesty has now verified 304 people murdered by the security services, 220 of whom died within 48 hours of the internet shut down.
The verification is as follows:
- 233 identified by first and last name
- Six by first or last name
- 65 by age, gender, and location of the injury
Those murdered in the indiscriminate killings include:
- Mohammad Dastankhah, 15, shot in the heart and lungs on his way home from school
- Azar Mirzapour, a 49-year-old nurse and mother of four, walking home from work, who had called her family to say she was just minutes away
- Bahman Jafari, 28, was shot in the heart and stomach on his way to work
“In almost all protests that took place between 15 and 19 November, there is no evidence that protesters posed an imminent threat to life or of causing serious injury to another person,” Amnesty wrote.
As such, the use of firearms by the authorities was completely unwarranted. Information obtained from eyewitnesses suggested that, in most cases, security forces deliberately fired live ammunition at victims’ heads or torsos. This claim is supported by the description of injuries cited on 24 death or burial certificates seen by Amnesty International.”
Amnesty called for urgent action from the government but the sad truth is that justice will never be served while the ayatollahs are in power.