Iran is going through a “full-blown human rights crisis” as the authorities crack down on opponents of the regime, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.
Al-Turk called for “independent, impartial and transparent investigations” into human rights abuses in Iran during a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday.
The Islamic Republic has been swept by a wave of anti-government protests sparked by the death of Mohsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the morality police in September for allegedly not wearing a headscarf properly.
The authorities have since launched a deadly crackdown on protesters, with reports of forced arrests and physical abuse being used to target the country’s Kurdish minority. In a recent CNN investigation, confidential testimony revealed sexual violence against protesters, including boys, in Iranian detention centers since the unrest began.
Security forces have reportedly responded to the protests using lethal force against unarmed demonstrators and bystanders who “pose no threat,” Turk told the Council of 47 Member States in Geneva.
According to al-Turk, more than 14,000 people, including children, have been arrested in connection with the protests. He said that at least 21 of them are currently facing the death penalty and 6 have already been sentenced to death.
Al-Turk added that the unprecedented national uprising took over more than 150 cities and 140 universities in all of Iran’s 31 provinces.
“We have received reports that the injured protesters are afraid to go to the hospital because they risk being arrested by the security forces,” he said.
“I am alarmed by reports that even children suspected of participating in protests are being arrested at school, and hundreds of university students have been summoned for questioning, threatened or partially suspended from entering university campuses.
I urge those in power in Iran to fully respect fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.
“No society can be calcified or petrified as it may stand at one point in time. And to attempt to do so, against the will of its people, is futile.”
Tehran strongly condemned the “horrific and disgraceful” emergency meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, at a time when Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced the formation of a national commission to investigate deaths linked to the protest movement.
Iran’s Deputy Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Khadija Karimi, who represented Iran at Thursday’s session, denounced the “politically motivated” decision taken by Germany to call the session, describing it as a “plot with ulterior motives.”
Karimi said countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and France lacked “the moral credibility to preach to others about human rights and request a special session on Iran”.
It also defended the conduct of Iran’s security forces and said the government had taken “necessary measures” after Amini’s “unfortunate” death while in the custody of the morality police.
The violent reaction of Iranian security forces towards the protesters has shaken diplomatic relations between Tehran and Western leaders.
The White House on Wednesday imposed the 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 escalating violence against protesters.”
During an interview with Indian broadcaster NDTV on Thursday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said that foreign powers are meddling in Iran’s internal affairs and creating “misleading narratives”.