According to Volker Turk, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Iran is in a “full-fledged human rights crisis” as authorities crack down on dissidents against the regime.
At a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, Turk called for “independent, impartial and transparent investigation processes” into human rights abuses in Iran.
The Islamic Republic has been gripped by a wave of anti-government protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who was detained by vice police in September, allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly.
Authorities have since unleashed a deadly crackdown on protesters, using reports of forced detentions and physical abuse to attack the country’s minority Kurdish group. In a recent CNN investigation, secret testimony revealed sexual assaults against protesters, including boys, in Iran’s detention centers since the unrest began.
Security forces reportedly responded to protests by using deadly force against unarmed protesters and bystanders who “posed no threat,” Turk told the 47-member council in Geneva.
More than 14,000 people, including children, have been arrested in connection with the protests, Turk said. He said at least 21 of them are currently facing the death penalty and six have already received the death penalty.
The unprecedented national uprising has gripped more than 150 cities and 140 universities in all 31 provinces of Iran, Turk added.
“We have received reports that injured protesters are afraid to go to hospital because they risk being arrested by security forces,” he said.
“I am alarmed by reports that even children suspected of participating in school protests are being arrested, hundreds of college students have been summoned for questioning, threatened or partially suspended from entering college campuses.
“I urge those in power in Iran to fully respect fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
“No society can be calcified or fossilized as it can stand at a single moment in time. Attempts to do so, against the will of the people, are futile.”
Tehran vehemently condemned the “appalling and disgraceful” emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council just as Iran’s foreign ministry announced a national commission to investigate deaths linked to the protest movement.
The deputy to Iran’s vice president for women’s and family affairs, Khadijeh Karimi, who represented Iran at Thursday’s session, condemned Germany’s “politically motivated” decision to convene the session, describing it as “an orchestrated ploy with ulterior motives.”
Countries like Germany, the UK and France lack “the moral credibility to preach to others about human rights and ask for a special session on Iran,” Karimi said.
She also defended the actions of the Iranian security forces, saying the government was taking “necessary measures” following Amini’s “unfortunate” death while in the custody of the vice squad.
Iran’s security forces’ violent response to demonstrators has shaken diplomatic ties between Tehran and Western leaders.
The White House imposed its latest round of sanctions on three officials in Iran’s Kurdish region on Wednesday after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply concerned that Iranian authorities reportedly escalated violence against protesters.”
During an interview with Indian broadcaster NDTV on Thursday, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani said foreign powers meddled in Iranian internal affairs and created “misleading narratives”.