Children’s deaths ‘must stop’ in Iran, says UNICEF, as protests continue | CNN
The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said it remains deeply concerned by reports of children being killed, injured, and detained in Iran, it said in a statement on Friday, adding that the reported deaths of children at anti-government protests “must stop.”
An “estimated 50 children have reportedly lost their lives in the public unrest in Iran,” UNICEF said in the statement.
This comes as the unrest in Iran has continued for more than two months, and amid increasing calls from protesters and activists online to UNICEF, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations to take action on human rights violations and crimes against children taking plane in Iran.
Many tell CNN that they feel their voices have not been heard. “They just say, hey, Islamic Republic, what are you doing is bad,” one protester in Iran told CNN. “Yes, everybody knows it’s bad. Three-year-old children know it’s bad, but we need actual action. Do something. I don’t know. I believe they know better than us what they can do.”
“In Iran, UNICEF remains deeply concerned by reports of children being killed, injured, and detained,” the statement read, citing the death of a young boy named Kian Pirfalak, one of seven people killed during Wednesday’s protests in the southwestern city of Izeh. “This is terrifying and must stop,” the organization added.
UNICEF reported Pirfalak’s age as 10-years-old. Iranian state media has reported his age as nine.
The child was traveling in a car on Wednesday with his family when he was shot dead and his father injured by gunfire, his mother told state media in an interview with Tasnim Friday.
According to Iran’s state-aligned news agency ISNA, protesters set a seminary on fire around the same time as people were shot and killed in Izeh in what state media outlets are calling a “terror attack.”
Activists are accusing the Iranian regime of killing Kian and others in Izeh.
The Islamic Republic is facing one of the biggest and unprecedented shows of dissent in recent history following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman detained by the morality police allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly.
At least 378 people have been killed since demonstrations began, according to an Iranian human rights group, as the country’s Supreme Leader issued a warning that the protest movement is “doomed to failure.”
The organization Iran Human Rights published the estimated death toll Saturday, adding that it includes 47 children killed by security forces.
CNN cannot independently verify arrest figures, death tolls, and many of the accounts of those killed due to the Iranian government’s suppression of independent media, and internet shutdowns which decrease transparency in reporting on the ground. Nor can media directly access the government for their account on such cases, unless there is reporting on state media, the mouthpiece of the government.
Video shared by activist group 1500 Tasvir and others showed a large crowd gathered for Pirfalak funeral in his hometown in Izeh Friday.
Surrounded by mourners, his mother Zeynab Molaeirad is heard singing a children’s song, replacing the lyrics with words against Ayatollah Khamenei and the regime. She then reveals new details about the fatal incident, according to a video shared on social media.
“Hear it from my mouth what really happened to Kian,” she told the crowd, “So the regime doesn’t lie and say it was a terrorist.”
Molaeirad, who was traveling with her family in their car, said people on the street yelled at the vehicle to turn back and that her son told his father not to worry.
“Kian said: ‘Baba trust the police for once and turn around, they are looking out for us,’” she said.
His father made a U-turn and drove towards the police, his mother said. But “because the car windows were rolled up, the police thought we may have wanted to shoot at them,” she said.
“They opened a barrage of fire on the car.”
Kian’s mother also posted a photo with her son in her Instagram post. “My broken flower. Curse on the Islamic Republic,” she wrote.
Human rights groups have accused Iranian authorities of scaring victims’ families to silence. Iranian authorities are “systematically harassing and intimidating victims’ families to hide the truth” of their deaths, as Amnesty International’s Heba Morayef said in a recent report.
The United Nations on Friday said it was “deeply worried about growing violence related to the ongoing popular protests in Iran,” said deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Farhan Haq.
“We condemn all incidents that have resulted in death or serious injury, including the shooting in the city of Izeh on 16 November 2022. We are also concerned about the reported issuance of death sentences against five unnamed individuals in the context of the latest protests,” Haq said.
Haq urged Iranian authorities to respect international human rights law and avoid the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.
Despite the UN’s condemnation, Iranians have been highly critical of the global organization and its agencies, saying the its words are not enough and that there is a lack of action against human rights violations taking place in Iran.
Stories like Parfalik’s “have led Iranians inside and outside the country to really be demanding justice asking what UNICEF is doing on the ground to stop this,” said Iranian American human rights lawyer Gissou Nia said in an interview with CNN’s Isa Soares Friday.
Nia, who is also director of the Strategic Litigation Project at the Atlantic Council went on to say that the UN Human Rights Council is meeting in Geneva on Thursday in a special session to address “the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“The outcome of that special session will likely be an investigative mechanism or some kind of independent body that can collect, preserve and analyze evidence of what’s happening here for accountability purposes,” Nia said.
“What would be absolutely shameful is if that 47-member body votes no” to creating such a mechanism, she added.