ResourcesPress Release

Iran’s Government Must End Brutal Crackdown on Protesters, Respect International Human Rights Law: PHR

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) condemns the wanton and excessive force perpetrated by Iran’s security forces against demonstrators amid mass protests across the country. In light of increasing reports of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, sexual violence, and killings of protestors and human rights defenders in Iran, PHR joins calls for an immediate, independent mechanism to investigate the human rights crisis and advance accountability. 

Following her arrest by Iran’s “morality police,” Mahsa (Jîna) Amini’s sudden death in custody on September 16 sparked protests which have since spread to at least 80 cities across Iran. Mass demonstrations calling for women’s rights and fundamental freedoms have been met with a brutal crackdown by Iranian authorities. Open-source evidence suggests that security forces have fired both live ammunition and crowd control weapons at protestors. Reports of arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, and sexual violence have emerged, despite officials’ attempts to block communications through an Internet shutdown. Amnesty International has documented the killings of scores of demonstrators.

“We believe that our job as doctors is to save lives, promote gender equality, and defend human rights. We call on our medical colleagues around the globe to help elevate the voices of the brave Iranian protesters and the clinicians who care for them,” said Dr. Arash Alaei, President, Institute for International Health and Education.

Arash Alaei and his brother Kamiar are renowned Iranian global health experts who were imprisoned for several years in Iran for their pioneering HIV/AIDS work. From 2008-2011, PHR led an international advocacy campaign (“Iran, Free The Docs”) that ultimately contributed to their release.  

“The young people leading protests in Iran are speaking out for human rights, including women’s rights, the right to life, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Dr. Kamiar Alaei, professor of global health at California State University Long Beach. “In light of recent attacks on protesters and deaths in custody, we call for independent, thorough, and monitored forensic documentation of Mahsa (Jîna) Amini’s and others’ injuries and deaths.”

“Iranian protesters calling for human rights, dignity, and justice have been met with batons, bullets, and brutality,” said Erika Dailey, director of advocacy and policy at PHR. “As Iranian women, students, and activists exercise their rights to assembly and protest, authorities must refrain from the violent and disproportionate tactics they have used over the past month. We call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to form an independent investigative and accountability mechanism to document the ongoing human rights violations in Iran and help to hold perpetrators accountable.” 

PHR is also alarmed by reports of Iranian security forces weaponizing ambulances to attack, detain, and transport demonstrators. PHR urges independent investigations into these practices.  PHR calls for the Iranian government to respect and protect the rights of health workers to provide impartial care to all, including injured protestors, without the threat of retaliation or harm. 

*The headline of this press release was updated on October 13 with the word “government” to better describe the perpetrator of the crackdown on demonstrators.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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