An Iranian official claims that security forces acted with "responsibility" during the 2022-2023 anti-government protests, accusing protesters of being responsible for the deaths of 112 “bystanders”.

In a statement released on Sunday, Hossein Mozaffar, appointed as the head of a committee investigating violence during the protests by President Ebrahim Raisi, claimed that the committee's findings suggest that "certain elements" instigated violence amidst what were otherwise peaceful protests. Mozaffar further stated that security forces were responsible for only "a few" isolated incidents of violence against protesters.

Mozaffar claimed such violations are in no way the result of a policy of the government and should be attributed to individual agents who have been legally dealt with.

Hossein Mozaffar, the head of Iran's committee investigating violence during the 2022 protests

UN, NGOs hold regime accountable for atrocities

Contrary to the regime’s narrative of events, a United Nations fact-finding mission established in November 2022 has found that authorities committed “crimes against humanity” – and that “security forces used unnecessary and disproportionate force which resulted in the unlawful killing and injuries of protestors”. The preliminary report, released on March 8, also noted a pattern of extensive injuries to protesters’ eyes that caused the blinding of scores of women, men and children including bystanders.

The full 400-page report is scheduled to be published this week.

In a report released March 6, the London-based Justice for Iran, a human rights NGO, contended that authorities deployed special combat forces and armed security forces to suppress the protests, resulting in "crimes against humanity.”

Scores of protesters were blinded with pellet guns aimed directly at their faces, and many of the tens of thousands who were arrested were tortured. Many of the victims have also claimed they were sexually assaulted during interrogations and in prison.

The protests that spread across Iran were sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa (Jina) Amini in the custody of the morality police hijab watchers on September 16, 2022 and lasted for several months.

Based on a coroner’s report in October 2022, the statement stressed that Amini’s death was not caused by blows to the head and limbs and instead attributed it to “underlying medical conditions”.

Last week, the UN fact-finding mission said it has "established the existence of evidence of trauma to Ms Amini's body, inflicted while in the custody of the morality police". This along with the "patterns of violence by the morality police" satisfied the mission that Amini was subjected to physical violence that led to her death.

Regime labels protesters as ‘rioters’

While the UN report, and other NGO’s, have often characterized Iranian protesters as peaceful – Mozaffar’s statement instead, refers to protesters as “rioters”.

The country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has also consistently dismissed the characterization of the uprising as peaceful, instead arbitrarily labeling them as "rioters" and accusing them of engaging in "terrorist acts."

In the first official figure, issued by the authorities in Iran, Mozaffar said a total of 202 civilians were killed during the protests. In addition, he accused “rioters and terrorists” of killing 54 of the security forces as well as 25 civilians during such operations.

Mozaffar also alleged that 90 of the other citizens killed during the protests were carrying melee weapons or firearms and were killed “during terrorist operations, combat, or attack against military and law enforcement bases and vital infrastructures and law enforcement agents.”

Human rights organizations have compiled the names of at least 551 protesters, including 68 children, who were killed by security forces.

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