In September 2022, the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died in police custody after she was detained by the morality police for wearing a hijab “improperly,” sparked widespread protest around Iran. Authorities claimed Amini died of a heart attack while in custody, while her family said she was beaten. The demonstrations over her death quickly morphed into wider discontent with the regime.
In the six months since, Iranian security forces have routinely used draconian tactics to try to suppress protests, going so far as to arrest children. In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International found children arrested during and after protests had been subject to electric shocks on their body, had their heads held underwater, been sexually assaulted, and been threatened with rape. Many children were released only after they signed “repentance” letters and promised not to participate in further protests, according to the human rights organization. The Iranian government has not responded to the report and did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
A mysterious wave of suspected poisonings across the country has also landed more than 1,000 schoolgirls in the hospital. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, whose department is spearheading investigations into the poisoning reports, said in early March that 90% of the hospitalizations came from “stress and worries caused by the news.” Many Iranians have dismissed that explanation, calling Vahidi’s claim “ridiculous” and criticizing the regime for not taking action on the reports despite widespread surveillance of residents.
In a Thursday press release, the United Nations called the poisonings “deliberate” and condemned the government for failing to protect the girls and swiftly investigate the cases.
“There is a stark contrast between the rapid deployment of force to arrest and jail peaceful protestors and an incapacity spanning months to identify and arrest perpetrators of large scale, coordinated attacks against young girls in Iran,” UN experts said.