Sunday , 3 December 2023

Special Report: The Islamic Republic’s Use of Blinding as a Weapon of War Against Protesters

Iranwire – It has been almost six months since Iran’s nationwide protests began, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of the country’s morality policy. IranWire has in that time identified more than 50 protesters who have suffered serious injuries to their eyes – and in many cases, blinded – because of the violent tactics used by Iranian security forces in their attempts to suppress popular demonstrations in favor of women’s rights and against the Iranian government.

Elaheh Tavakolian, before and after her injury
Farid Rashidi, before and after his injury

Our investigations will carry on after this report is published, of course, and IranWire will continue to gather evidence and to document this crime.

The effort to find the victims, or to put it more accurately, the survivors of this violent and widespread crackdown on the 2022 and 2023 protests, started months ago. Beyond those survivors who have shared the stories of their injuries on social media, there is a larger group, in more remote parts of Iran, who remain unknown either because of threats to their safety or for personal or family reasons.

Many others among the injured are unwilling to disclose their identities because they are afraid of retaliation by the security forces. Several are from underprivileged groups in Iran and live under various forms of political and social deprivation and discrimination – they cannot afford modern means of communication. IranWire nevertheless works to reach Iranians who do not have smartphones although this does take more time.

Several victims provided their medical records to IranWire and the doctors and lawyers consulting with us. The records must, of course, be kept confidential.

One of the goals of Iranian security services, when they indiscriminately and deliberately shoot at the eyes of protesters, must be to teach a lesson to others; to intimidate and terrorize, so that they might not take to the street or demand liberty and human rights. But dozens of protesters who were shot because they were at the forefront of demonstrations have not hesitated: they have come forward to tell the public their stories and to show photographs of the injuries to their eyes and other parts of their bodies. At the time of writing, at least 500 protesters have been killed and at least 580 have lost one or both eyes.

According to doctors and psychologists, losing an eye is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can have, like learning that one has cancer. Knowing this can help us feel a stronger sense of empathy with this group of fighters in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising. They experience this trauma again and again, each morning, when they open their eyes or whenever they look in a mirror.

The following is our first report on this horrifying tragedy that, either alone or with subsequent reports, can be presented as evidence at international criminal tribunals. But even as we work to document these facts, so that they will not be forgotten, we are also thinking about how to prevent such outrages from happening again in the future.

Who are the real culprits in this tragedy? And what role do the manufacturers of the weapons used to blind protesters play in the overall effort to suppress protests?

In preparing this report, we consulted with Katherine Heinet, Omid Shams, a group of doctors including Dr. Rouzbeh Esfandiari, Dr. David Khorram and others who shall remain anonymous, the international lawyer Dr. Payam Akhavan and a group of Iranian, British and French lawyers, and also several Iranian and French sociologists. We give each of them our special thanks and we remain committed to working together.

The report will updated every Sunday with new case studies and stories of survivors. You can download the report by clicking on this link.