Iran is mired in a “full-blown human rights crisis,” according to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, as the authorities crack down on anti-regime dissidents.
At a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, Turk called for “independent, impartial and transparent investigations” into human rights violations in Iran.
The Islamic Republic has been gripped by a wave of anti-government protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was arrested by morality police in September for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.
Authorities have since launched a deadly crackdown on protesters, using reports of forced arrests and physical abuse against the country’s Kurdish minority. A recent CNN investigation undercover testimony uncovered sexual violence against protesters, including boys, in Iranian detention centers since the unrest began.
Security forces have reportedly responded to protests with deadly force against unarmed protesters and bystanders who “posed no threat,” Turk told the 47-member State Council in Geneva.
More than 14,000 people, including children, have been arrested in connection with the protests, Turk said. He said at least 21 of them are currently facing the death penalty and six have already been sentenced to death.
The unprecedented national uprising has gripped more than 150 cities and 140 universities in all 31 provinces of Iran, Turk added.
“We have received reports that injured protesters are afraid to go to the hospital because they risk being arrested by security forces,” he said.
“I am concerned by reports that even children suspected of taking part in protests are being arrested at schools, hundreds of university students are being summoned for questioning, threatened or even barred from entering university campuses.
“I call on those in power in Iran to fully respect basic freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
“No society can be calcified or petrified as it stands at any given point in time. Trying to do this against the will of his people is futile.”
Tehran vehemently condemned the “appalling and shameful” emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, just as Iran’s foreign ministry announced a national committee to investigate deaths linked to the protest movement.
Deputy Vice-President for Women and Family Affairs in Iran Khadijeh Karimi, representing Iran at Thursday’s meeting, condemned Germany’s “politically motivated” decision to convene the meeting, calling it a “staged ploy with ulterior motives”. ”
Countries like Germany, Britain and France “lack the moral credibility to preach to others about human rights and to call for a special session on Iran,” Karimi said.
She also defended the behavior of Iran’s security forces, saying the government took “necessary action” following Amini’s “unfortunate” death in morality police custody.
The violent response by Iranian security forces to protesters has shaken diplomatic ties between Tehran and Western leaders.
The White House on Wednesday imposed its latest round of sanctions on three officials in Iran’s Kurdish region after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply concerned that Iranian authorities are reportedly escalating violence against protesters.”
During an interview with Indian broadcaster NDTV on Thursday, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said foreign powers are interfering in Iran’s internal affairs and creating “false narratives”.