Iran human rights highlights targeting of protesters' eyes

Iranians protest in Tehran on Sept. 20, 2022. A report released Sept. 22, 2023, by Iran Human Rights accuses Iranian authorities of targeting protesters' eyes when firing at them. [AP Photo]

Iran Human Rights on Friday released its statistical analysis of eye injuries sustained during the crackdown on the 2022 protests. After cross-referencing the injuries with the list of protest-related fatalities, the organization concluded: "The firing upon women's faces and eyes by repressive forces has been highly systematic and deliberate."

Within Iran, the organization said, about 9% of the fatalities were women, yet women accounted for 28% of the eye injuries. In some areas, however, like Mahabad in West Azerbaijan province, 15% of the protesters killed were women, while they made up 56% of protester eye injuries.

The organization’s “analysis shows that the brutal crimes committed during the protests by the Islamic Republic were planned, coordinated and calculated,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Iran Human Rights, wrote in the report. “The Islamic Republic leader, Ali Khamenei, and all the perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable.”

In late November 2022, The New York Times reported on the number of eye injuries in Iran since the nationwide protests began. Ophthalmologists from three major hospitals in Tehran — Farabi, Rasoul Akram and Labbafinezhad — estimated that more than 500 patients with severe eye injuries had been admitted to the three hospitals since mid-September.

Researchers from Iran Human Rights, or IHR, confirmed 138 verified cases related to eye injuries, out of which 43 individuals shared their medical details and documents with the organization under the condition of maintaining their anonymity.

The names and images of 95 other people, along with details regarding their eye injuries, the circumstances and the timing of the incidents, were included in the organization's report.

The report notes that eight children — four boys and four girls — were among the list of individuals with eye injuries. The youngest among them was a 5-year-old girl who sustained an eye injury from a pellet gunshot while on the balcony of her grandfather's second-floor apartment in Malek Shahr, Isfahan, resulting in the loss of her right  eye.

The data gathered by IHR indicates that the targeting of protesters' eyes by repressive forces began in the early days of the nationwide protests, which started on September 17, 2022, and persisted extensively in various cities across Iran until the end of November.

The pattern of targeting eyes with pellet guns continued to a lesser extent in December, and in January, there were fewer protesters reporting eye injuries as a result of suppressive forces' gunfire, IHR found.

“The majority of eye injuries have been caused by pellets [metal and plastic] and resulted in the loss of eyesight in one eye and in some cases, both eyes,” the IHR report said.

Iran Human Rights highlighted that in certain reports, particularly those concerning smaller cities, the injured individuals have successfully identified the perpetrators, and that this information will be shared with the United Nations Truth Commission.