Opinion / The Nation and the World

Iran must stop harassment of families of killed protestors

It has been a little more than a year since the famous “Woman Life Freedom” uprising began in Iran following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini for breaking the hijab law. The news about her death sparked controversy against the Iranian government; people protested for her, but many lost their lives by advocating. The Iranian government continues to deny any responsibility for the death of Mahsa Amini, the protestors that were killed, and families that have been experiencing harassment, despite the overwhelming evidence against them.

Even more shocking are the tactics the Iranian government has used to silence the victims’ families. To silence families about the brutality their loved ones faced, Iranian security forces harassed them. In working to conceal the truth, the government has implemented different intimidation tactics, including physical violence, surveillance, and censorship. Families and bystanders may not call for accountability, hold memorials or gatherings, or post on social media regarding the victims. Any breach of these rules can result in arrest and detention, prosecution on charges, threats of harm, destruction of graves, and even reburying of victims’ bodies in unknown locations.

This needs to end if we are to promote a just and civil world.

On September 16, 2022, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody after she was detained by the morality police for disobeying the government’s new hijab law. This law mandates that women must cover their hair and wear loose-fitting robes. She was detained on the streets of Tehran with her hair out. According to the New York Times, Iranian security forces claimed she collapsed from a heart attack without reason, even though she was in perfect health, according to her family.

Her death became the centerpiece of billboards, inviting everyone onto the streets. People protested in support of Mahsa to speak for her because she no longer had a voice. Her story spread all over the world. Even if people were losing their lives in these protests, they did not stop fighting because they knew the right thing to do and where their morals lay.

Since the 2022 uprising, authorities in Iran have not held anyone accountable for the hundreds of unlawful killings of protesters. Instead, they blamed the deaths on rioters and even claimed that many of the deaths resulted from suicide or accidents. Worse yet, they have subjected the families of these victims to a campaign of harassment and abuse to intimidate them into silence.

In one case, 25-year-old Reza Lotfi was unlawfully killed by security forces on September 19, 2022, as part of a violent crackdown on protestors seeking truth and justice. Reza’s father, Kamal Lofti, was later arrested and detained for several months for publishing a video statement on social media that exposed the authorities’ false narrative and propaganda on the circumstances surrounding his son’s death and his family’s treatment following this event. In protest, he went on a hunger strike in prison; he was later released on bail.

To expose these truths, Amnesty International has researched and shared 33 cases of victims and the intimidation tactics authorities have subjected the victims’ families to in Iran.

Human rights-focused organizations, such as Amnesty International and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), are working to expose the numerous violations within Iran related to the “Woman Life Freedom” uprising. This is leading to increased scrutiny worldwide and related advocacy.

The time is now for all of us to take an interest and have our voices heard. I implore you to educate yourself on this issue and to work with your local chapter of human rights organizations to spread awareness and fight injustice. I promise to do the same.

Image Source: Amnesty International

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