The eyes of female demonstrators were targeted by security forces during women’s rights protests that erupted across Iran a year ago, according to a recent analysis by Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO).
“While women constituted 9% of protester death numbers, they make up 28% of eye injury numbers”, IHRNGO explained in the report dated 16 September.
This suggests that security forces have chosen to intentionally target women’s eyes rather than fatally shooting them, the organisation warned.
The true extent of eye injury cases to women protesters is likely to be much higher than the data illustrate. Reports were difficult to verify as the majority of victims were fearful of speaking out.
Security forces began shooting protesters in the eyes from the first days of the protests on 16 September and continued nationwide until 21 November.
Eye injuries from direct shooting by security forces continued on a smaller scale until the end of December, IHRNGO data revealed.
Pellet guns were most frequently reported as the weapon used, unloading a blast of small shot across a wide area, causing extensive and irreparable damage. The full-length report, which will be shared with the UN Fact-Finding Mission, details images and medical records of 95 people—women, men, and children—who sustained direct injuries to the eye during the protests. Dozens of other cases chose to remain anonymous.
The deliberate targeting of protesters’ eyes is not a new tactic. Iran’s security forces, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, also attacked protesters’ eyes and faces during water shortage protests in the city of Isfahan in December 2021.
Similar reports have emerged internationally. Turkish police were ordered to use the same torture method during the 2013 anti-government Gezi Park Protests in Istanbul. More than 130,000 gas canisters were used, resulting in 11 eye losses and numerous head traumas, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Network.