The UN Human Rights Council has voted to appoint an independent inquiry into the deadly crackdown on protests in Iran, passing the motion amid cheers from activists amid an escalating crackdown in Kurdish areas the last days.
Volker Turk, the UN human rights commissioner, previously demanded that Iran end its “disproportionate” use of force to quell protests that erupted after the death in custody of the Kurdish woman 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16.
The protests have particularly focused on women’s rights – Amini was detained by vice police for attire deemed inappropriate under Iran’s Islamic dress code – but have also called for the downfall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The unrest has posed one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical ruling elite since it came to power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, though authorities have crushed previous rounds of major protests.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the vote.
“Today’s session leaves no doubt that HRC members recognize the gravity of the situation in Iran, and the fact-finding mission established today will help ensure that those engaged in the repression violence of the Iranian people are identified and their actions documented,” he added. said in a statement.
The mission will collect evidence of abuse during the authorities’ deadly crackdown.
Evidence gathered by a mission appointed by the same counsel was later used in the prosecution of a Syrian ex-officer in Germany accused of war crimes.
Iran’s representative at the Geneva meeting, Khadijeh Karimi, earlier accused the United States and its allies of using the council to target Iran, a move she called “appalling and shameful “.
Turk, who said Iran was facing a “full-fledged human rights crisis” with 14,000 people arrested, including children, said the Iranian government had failed to respond to his request for country visit.
Iran has given no death toll from protesters, but a deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, said on Thursday that around 50 police officers had died and hundreds injured in the unrest – the first official death toll among the security forces.
He did not say whether that figure also included deaths among other security forces such as the Revolutionary Guards.
The crackdown has been particularly intense in the Kurdish regions, located in western Iran, with the UN rights monitor this week reporting reports of 40 deaths in the past week.
Voria Ghafouri, an outspoken Iranian Kurdish footballer, was arrested on Thursday for “insulting the national team” and “propaganda against the system”, according to the official IRNA news agency.
He was arrested after a training session with Foolad Khuzestan Football Club.
Iranian authorities have arrested a number of football players for expressing support for the protests.
Asked about the unrest at home on Thursday, Iran team striker Mehdi Taremi said they were in Qatar to play football.
“We are not under pressure,” he added after the players refused to sing the national anthem in their first World Cup game against England.
Prominent Sunni Muslim cleric Molavi Abdulhamid, a member of the Baloch minority in the southeast who has openly criticized the treatment of predominantly Sunni ethnic minorities by the mainly Shia ruling elite, has spoken out against the crackdown.
“The dear Kurds of Iran have endured many sufferings such as severe ethnic discrimination, severe religious pressure, poverty and economic hardship. Is it right to respond to their protest with war bullets?” he tweeted on Wednesday.
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