Iranian security forces have been systematically targeting the eyes of demonstrators in their crackdown on the protests that have swept the country since September, a human rights group said Friday.
Norway-based Iran Human Rights said initial data indicated young women were disproportionately represented among people who had sustained such wounds.
A Tehran newspaper earlier this week asked a top police commander if security forces had been targeting the eyes and other sensitive areas. He insisted on their good conduct.
IHR said protesters had been shot in the head and the face, leading “to many, including a significant number of young women, being blinded.”
It said this “inhumane and unlawful act” had been “carried out systematically to crush protests.”
IHR said it had documented 22 cases of people being blinded in one eye as a result of fire from the security forces, nine of them women.
The youngest person wounded — Bonita Kiani Falavarjani, aged just six, from the city of Isfahan — was shot and blinded in one eye while standing on her grandfather’s balcony, it said.
In a high-profile case, Kosar Khoshnoudikia, a member of Iran‘s national archery team, was blinded in one eye after a protest in December in the city of Kermanshah.
“We don’t have enough data yet, but I have the impression that young girls are over-represented among those whose eyes are targeted,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam.
Asked if security forces were targeting eyes, the commander of the special police, Hassan Karami, told the Hamshahri newspaper that “not harming the protesting population” was a priority for the police forces.
“I have so much faith in the ability of the special police units that I have said many times that I will offer a reward to anyone who can prove that someone was killed as a result of a mistake by our staff,” he said.
According to IHR, security forces have killed at least 488 people during the crackdown on the protests which erupted in September following the death of the Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the country’s dress code for women.