The death of 16-year-old Nika Shakarami has caused an outpouring of grief in Iran and around the world – Copyright AFP/File –
Dozens of Iranian children have been killed and hundreds detained after being caught up in protests over Mahsa Amini’s death, with some even ending up in “psychological centres”, it has been reported.
Iran has been rocked by nearly a month of protests fueled by public outrage over Amini’s death after vice police arrested her for allegedly violating the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for the women.
Fed up with the lack of change, the country’s Gen Z teenagers – those born before 2010 – have come of age and been recognized for their bravery in the face of security forces.
“Iranian Zoomers are frustrated/angry with the status quo and not afraid to say it online and get out of the red lines” of the Islamic Republic, tweeted Holly Dagres, Iran specialist at the think tank AtlanticCouncil.
Night after night, young women and schoolgirls appeared in the streets, their hair uncovered and their fists raised, chanting “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”.
However, young people involved in the protest have paid with their lives, with US-based rights group HRANA identifying at least 18 minors dead – the youngest being just 12.
But the total number of children killed is widely believed to be much higher.
Iran’s Child Rights Protection Society said this week that at least 28 people had lost their lives, many of them in the impoverished province of Sistan-Balochistan.
The Tehran-based group said families were “kept in the dark” about the whereabouts of their children and that their affairs continued without proper legal representation.
Human rights lawyer Hassan Raisi said some of the arrested children were being held in detention centers for adult drug addicts.
“It’s very concerning,” he told the London-based Iran Wire news site on Wednesday.
Anyone “under the age of 18 should never be detained with a criminal over the age of 18… This is a legal requirement, not a recommendation”.
“About 300 people aged 12-13 to 18-19 are in custody,” he said, without further details.
Among those killed in the protests are Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh – two 16-year-old girls whose deaths have sparked an outpouring of grief in Iran and around the world.
– ‘Antisocial characters’ –
Protesting children have also been arrested in the streets and inside classrooms, Iranian Education Minister Yousef Nouri told the reformist newspaper Shargh in remarks published on Wednesday.
“There aren’t that many,” he said in response to a question about the number of schoolchildren arrested. “I can’t give an exact figure.”
Nouri said those detained were held in “psychological centers”.
The goal, he said, was “correction and rehabilitation” to prevent them from becoming “antisocial characters”.
UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, said it was “extremely concerned” by reports of “children and adolescents being killed, injured and detained” in Iran.
Despite the bloody crackdown and blockages of popular smartphone apps among Iranian teenagers, such as Instagram and TikTok, young internet enthusiasts have still managed to release videos of their protests.
They also adopted new tactics for the streets.
Those who go to protests wear masks and hats, leave phones behind to avoid being tracked, and take extra clothes to change into if they are marked by paintballs that security forces deploy for them. identify later.
Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Ali Fadavi told Iranian media on October 5 that “the average age of detainees at many recent protests was 15.”
“Some of the arrested teenagers and young adults used similar key phrases in their confessions, like comparing street riots to video games,” the Mehr news agency quoted Fadavi as saying.
The concern over video games has also been echoed by other officials.
Cleric Aboulfazl Ahmadi, head of a provincial organization linked to the morality police, said this month that Iran’s enemies “have bet on” the country’s teenagers and that “some video games have been designed to bring young people to the streets at times like these”.