U.S., EU Must Speak Out Forcefully to Avoid Further Bloodshed in Iran
Security Forces Are Again Killing Peaceful Protesters; Repeat of 2019 Massacre Feared
State-engineered Internet Shutdown Aimed at Hiding the Violence
July 28, 2021—As state security forces in Iran continue to violently suppress peaceful protests that erupted in Khuzestan province and have since spread to other areas of the country, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) calls on the U.S. and European countries to condemn the government’s lethal use of force against the protesters, and to demand that the Iranian authorities allow peaceful protest, release those detained, lift the siege of many neighborhoods that has been erected by security forces, and restore the internet so that information regarding the state’s actions can be shared both within and outside the country.
“The last time there were mass protests in Iran and an internet shutdown, there was a massacre,” said Hadi Ghaemi, referring to the hundreds of protesters and bystanders who were killed indiscriminately by state security forces in November 2019.
Protests, which broke out in Khuzestan province on July 15, 2021, were initially triggered by severe water shortages caused by a combination of drought and longstanding water and economic mismanagement by the government. Violently suppressed by state security forces, the protests have evolved into broad discontent with what is seen as the dysfunctional political system of the Islamic Republic.
Amnesty International has reported multiple deaths due to the state’s use of live ammunition against the protesters, as well as mass arrests. Protests have since spread to other towns and cities across Iran, including Tehran, but have so far been quickly squashed by security forces.
“It is time for President Joe Biden to speak out publicly in support of the right to peaceful protest in Iran,” said Ghaemi, “just as he has done with other countries engaging in severe human rights abuses.”
“Human rights need to be prioritized along with other security issues, and this should be communicated to Iran by the countries negotiating with the Islamic Republic,” Ghaemi added. “Otherwise there is a grave risk of massive state violence against protesters in Iran, which was hidden from the world’s view by a similar internet shutdown in November 2019.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, in a statement issued on July 23 said: “I am extremely concerned about the deaths and injuries that have occurred over the past week, as well as the widespread arrests and detention.”
She pointed out Iran lacks channels for people to raise their grievances in any way other than through protests.
“[T]he Government of Iran desperately needs to change tack, beginning with issuing clear instructions to security forces to abide by international standards on the use of force,” said Bachelet.