Iranwire – It all started outside Tehran’s Kasra Hospital on September 16.
A few days earlier, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from the western city of Saqqez, in Kurdistan province, went on a trip to the capital and never returned home.
While she was walking toward Tabiat Bridge, she was detained by agents of Gasht-e Ershad, the morality police.
Two hours later, she was transferred to Kasra Hospital after falling into a coma.
Mahsa’s name became a rallying cry for women and men in a small cemetery in Saqqez, where mourners started shouting “Women’s rights, freedom” while women were waving their headscarves in the air. A historic moment in Iran.
The outcry quickly spread to other cities throughout Iran. According to human rights activists, at least 520 people have been killed in 26 provinces during five months of protests triggered by Mahsa’s death, including 60 women.
IranWire was able to verify the identities of 28 of the women victims.
The true death toll is widely believed to be much higher.
Many women were also injured during the demonstrations. Some lost their eyes, were sexually assaulted, or were shot in their genitals.
“I can’t help thinking that because my name is Mahsa and this has happened to Mahsa Amini, my mother felt sympathy for Mahsa’s mother and went out to the street and got killed,” Mahsa Piraei said of her mother.
The mother, Mino Majidi, died after being hit by direct fire from security forces, becoming one of the first women killed during the ongoing wave of protests.
The 62-year-old woman was from Kermanshah, in western Iran. She belonged to the Yarsan religious minority.
Her children, Roya and Mahsa, have been seeking justice since her death.
A photograph that went viral on social media in October shows Roya standing by the grave of her mother. Her head is shaven and without a hijab, and she holds locks of hair that were cut off in mourning and protest.
The family confirmed that Majidi was shot multiple times in her neck and back.
Due to severe restrictions on the flow of information and independent reporting, many victims of the bloody crackdown on the protests have not been named in the media, but investigations by IranWire show that between September 16 and September 21, eight other women lost their lives after being hit by direct fire from security forces: 17-year-old Nika Shakrami was killed in Tehran, Ghazaleh Chalabi in Amol, Hananeh Kayakjuri in Nowshahr, Mahsa Mogoi in Fouladshahr, Hadis Najafi in Karaj, Setareh Tajik in Tehran, Shirin Alizadeh in Ramsar, and Bahar Khorshidi in Robatkarim.
Chalabi and Alizadeh recorded the moment of their murder on their mobile phones.
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are all together,” Chalabi is heard shouting in her video. The sound of a gunshot then resonates before she falls.
The protests intensified in October during the start of the academic year. Students, particularly women students, joined other segments of society in chanting slogans calling for freedom.
The cries of these young women and girls could not be suppressed as they launched rallies in universities and schools.
The world came to know the name and face of one of these brave protests: Sarina Esmailzadeh.
Amnesty International reported that the popular 16-year-old YouTuber was killed during a protest in the northern city of Gohardasht on September 23 when she was beaten with batons by security forces.
The human rights group also cited a source as saying that her family was subjected to “intense harassment to coerce them into silence,” an accusation denied by Iranian officials.
“Iranian teenagers are no longer the same as the teenager of 20 years ago. They are aware of the world situation and ask themselves what they have less than an American teenager because their concerns are so different,” Sarina said in a YouTube video.
Eyewitnesses confirmed that Sarina had joined the protesters after returning from an unscheduled class and was killed by baton blows to her head.
Human rights organizations have confirmed the deaths of Arnica Ghaem Maghamei in Tehran, Asra Panahi in Ardabil, Negin Abdulmaleki in Hamedan, and Hasti Naroei and Zulikha Tarzi in Zahedan during the first few weeks of protests.
Naroei and Tarzi died on September 30, when security forces in Zahedan killed 92 people, including 12 children, according to IranWire sources. Four security forces were also killed that day.
Fereshteh Ahmadi was killed during demonstrations in Mahabad on October 27.
Eight-year-old Mona Naqeeb was killed by a direct shot from government forces in the village of Aspich, in Sistan and Baluchistan province.
“We were going to school when her hand left mine and she fell to the ground. I asked, ‘Why did you fall?’ She replied, ‘They shot me, sister,’” her sister Maryam said.
The number of women and girls killed during the protests reached its peak in November.
They included Sarina Saeedi in Sanandaj, Parisa Bahmani, a general surgeon from Zanjan in Tehran, Nasrin Qaderi from Marivan in Tehran, Marzieh Doshman Ziyari from Bandarlange in Shiraz, Darya Nazmdeh in Karaj, Yalda Aghafazli in Tehran, Aylar Haghi in Tabriz, Atefeh Naami from Ahvaz in Karaj, Maedeh (Mahak) Hashemi in Shiraz, Aida Rostami in Tehran, Daria Farhadi in Ahvaz and Nasim Sedghi in Urmia, according to IranWire’s investigation and independent human rights organizations.
They were either shot by forces or died while in custody. Some of them committed suicide after their release from prison.
Many protesting women and girls who were arrested have reported instances of sexual and verbal abuse, rape threats and other forms of ill-treatment by interrogators, members of security forces and judicial officers.
Most of these women – some of whom have given interviews to IranWire – are afraid to reveal their identities for security reasons. However, the identity of at least two victims of assaults by officers is known.
One of them victims is Armita Abbasi, a 20-year-old woman who was arrested in Karaj in October and released on February 7.
Several witnesses said that she was taken to Imam Ali Hospital in Karaj after enduring a week of torture and sexual assaults. When medical staff informed the family that she was hospitalized, she was kidnapped by the security forces and transferred to an unknown location.
According to an investigative report by CNN, the young woman suffered from symptoms associated with violent sexual assault such as hemorrhage and rectal lacerations.
The other woman who endured severe beatings and sexual abuse while in custody is student rights activist Saha Mortezaei, who is imprisoned in Qarchak prison, near Tehran.
The authorities have denied forensic examination and medical care to Mortezaei, the Union Council of Iranian Students said on February 15.
The union quoted multiple prisoners as saying that “deceit, neglect and violations of prisoners’ rights are common practices” in the women’s prison.
Women and girls victims whom IranWire has managed to identify:
- Mahsa Amini, 22, killed in Tehran on September 16
- Mino Majidi, 62, killed in Kermanshah on September 20
- Nika Shakrami, 17, killed in Tehran on September 20
- Ghazaleh Chalabi, 33, killed in Amol on September 21
- Hananeh Kayakjuri, 23, killed in Nowshahr on September 21
- Mahsa Mogoei, 18, killed in Fouladshahr on September 22
- Hadis Najafi, 20, killed in Karaj on September 22
- Setareh Tajik, 17, killed in Tehran on September 22
- Shirin Alizadeh, 35, killed in Ramsar on September 22
- Bahar Khorshidi, 22, killed in Robat Karim on September 22
- Sarina Esmailzadeh, 16, killed in Karaj on September 23
- Hasti Naroei, 7, killed in Zahedan on September 30
- Zulikha Tarzi, 88, killed in Zahedan on September 30
- Negin Abdulmaleki, 21, killed in Hamadan on October 13
- Asra Panahi, 15, killed in Ardabil on October 14
- Arnica Qaimmaghmi, 17, killed in Tehran on October 22
- Mona Naghib, 8, killed in Saravan on October 24
- Marzieh Doshen Ziari, 22, killed in Shiraz on October 25
- Sarina Saedi, 16, killed in Sanandaj on October 26
- Fereshteh Ahmadi, 32, killed in Mahabad on October 27
- Parisa Bahmani, 52, killed in Tehran on October 28
- Darya (Marzieh) Nazmdeh, 26, killed in Karaj on November 3
- Yalda Aghafazli, 19, killed in Tehran on November 11
- Aylar Haghi, 23, killed in Tabriz on November 16
- Atefeh Ne’ami, 37, killed in Karaj on November 22
- Ma’edeh (Mahak) Hashemi, 16, killed in Shiraz on November 25
- Aida Rostami, 36, killed in Tehran on December 12
- Donya Farhadi, 22, killed in Ahvaz on December 15