Several young Iranians who lost one or both eyes after security forces fired pellets at their faces, say they do not regret having protested against the regime.

“I don’t feel miserable because of what happened. I lost some things but gained many others,” Kowsar (Mahbanou) Khoshnoudi-Kia, a young athlete who was shot in the left eye during an anti-government protest in Kermanshah in western Iran on December 9 said in a video post.

Khoshoudi-Kia, a member of the Iranian women’s archery national team and the runner-up of the Asian Archery Championships in 2021, said despite several operations in the past two months doctors have not been able to restore her eyesight.

The incident happened while Khoshnoudi-Nia and her father participated in a “silent march”. “The anti-riot police shot at us, and we were both wounded. Two pellets hit my father’s left arm. I was hit with three in the left arm and one in the left eye,” she said in the video.

Security forces in Iran use a shotgun shell known as ‘bird shot’ with small metal pellets that is less likely to kill from a distance but can indiscriminately blind people in a crowd. Some protesters who were shot at close range died from the birdshots.

Farideh Salavatipour, another victim who was shot in Sanandaj in west Iran on November 17 has lost both eyes and there is no hope to restore her eyesight. A photo of her showing her injuries with blood trickling down from one of her eyes down her face dotted with at least eighteen birdshots was published on social media because she said she did not want to remain anonymous and be forgotten.

On December 14, the head of the accident and emergency ward of Sina Hospital in Tehran, Hossein Kermanpour, told Ham Mihan newspaper that eye injuries were at the top of all injuries sustained by protesters who were shot with pellets and birdshots.

Kermanpour added that security forces who are not properly trained cause the high number of serious injuries because they shot the victims from close distances. He also pointed out that in some instances the shooting caused injuries in the lungs and in the genital area.

A woman targeted by shotgun 'birdshots' during protests in October

Some of the victims have, however, claimed that they were purposely shot in the face or in the genital area. “Why did you shoot me? Why were you smiling when you did?” Ghazal Ranjkesh who has lost one of her eyes asked her assailant in an Instagram post. A photo she has shared of her face shows injuries from tens of birdshots. Ranjkesh was shot during a protest in Bandar Abbas in southern Iran.

According to Kermanpour, some of the victims fearing arrest if they’d sought treatment in hospitals, sometimes only did so several days after the injury and when infection had set in.

The number of protesters who were wounded in the eye during the recent protests is not known but is estimated to amount to hundreds of cases.

A group of ophthalmology professors and doctors in November warned about the high number of eye injuries caused by pellets, birdshots and paintball guns during the protests that started four months ago, and said in many cases the injuries had led to the loss of one or both eyes.

During protests in November 2021 in Esfahan in central Iran tens of protesters were also shot in the eyes. A medical official told Iranian state television at the time that 40 people had been treated for eye injuries sustained during the protests, with 19 hospitalized. An injured eye became a social-media symbol for the suppression of the protests, with many activists posting images of bloody eyes or people holding bandage to an eye

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