By Kayhan Life Staff
Nov. 20 marked World Children’s Day, established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day “to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.”
This year’s theme focused on “inclusion, for every child,” commemorating the Declaration of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly on Nov. 20, 1954, which stipulates that every child “must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually, and be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.”
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC or UNCRC) defines a child as “any human being under the age of 18.”
Meanwhile, in recent reports by human rights organizations, some 60 children have been killed during the ongoing protests in Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who died while in the custody of the morality police on Sept. 16 in Tehran.
Although it is difficult to establish the exact number of people who have lost their lives in the protests, a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said that 419 people had died between Sept. 17 and Nov. 20, and 60 of whom were younger than 18. In addition, 17,451 people were arrested in the same period, 3,024 of whom have been identified.
The latest slogans shouted by the protesters highlight the death of many minors who have reportedly fallen victim to the security forces’ brutal crackdown on the recent unrest. These slogans include “death to child-murdering state” and “death to child killer, Khamenei.”
The Iranian public and global community have been outraged and saddened by the tragic deaths of many children in the past two months, including two 16-year-old girls, Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmaeilzadeh and Kian Pirfalak, a 10-year-old boy.
Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmaeilzadeh were reportedly killed by security forces in Tehran and Karaj (42 kilometers northwest of Tehran), respectively. However, Iranian authorities said the two girls had committed suicide by jumping off buildings.
Asra Panahi, a 15-year-old girl, was reportedly beaten to death by plainclothes police and security units who used batons to crack down on protesting students shouting anti-regime slogans at Shahid high school in Ardabil, the capital of the northwestern province of Ardabil.
According to the authorities, Ms. Panahi had become depressed after the recent death of her father and committed suicide. Security officials in Ardabil reportedly extracted a forced confession from Ms. Panahi’s teenage brother. He reportedly tried to take his own life after his confession was broadcast on state TV. He was admitted to a hospital’s coronary care unit (CCU).
The 10-year-old Kian Pirfalak was shot dead by security forces after they opened fire on a crowd of protesters on Nov. 16 in Izeh, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.
Kian was traveling with his parents and three-year-old brother in their car when security forces opened fire on protesters. Bullets hit Kian and his father. Kian, who was sitting behind his father as he drove the car, reportedly died instantly. His father is in critical condition in the hospital.
Today is #WorldChildrensDay and classmates of 10 yr old #KianPirfalak shot by security forces in #Iran sit by his grave mourning his loss.
Kian is one of more than 58 children killed with impunity by the Islamic Republic. @UNICEF #MahsaAmini #IranRevolution pic.twitter.com/Y4VcCYIb2S
— Dr. Nina Ansary (@drninaansary) November 20, 2022
On the same day, Iranian security forces in Izeh reportedly shot dead two 14-year-old boys, Sepehr Maghsoudi and Artin Rahmani.
The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said in a statement on Nov. 18 that the reported deaths of children at anti-government protests “must stop.”
“In Iran, UNICEF remains deeply concerned by reports of children being killed, injured, and detained. Despite a lack of official data, since late September, about 50 children have reportedly lost their lives in the public unrest in Iran,” the statement said. “The latest of such horrible losses was 10-year-old Kyan, who was shot dead in the car with his family. This is terrifying and must stop.”
Mahtab Karamati, an Iranian actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, wrote on her Instagram account: “I am aware of the reports on the heart-wrenching deaths and arrests of children and teenagers in recent protests, and the use of children younger than 18 years old to crush protests. I have brought this matter to the attention of UNICEF. We will pursue this issue.”
However, UNICEF has come under criticism for not taking a more forceful stance towards the Islamic Republic for its alleged crimes against Children.
Many prominent Iranian and international arts and entertainment figures have supported the Iranian people’s struggle for their inalienable legal, civil, and human rights and condemned the brutal crackdown of protests and the tragic deaths of children.
“You condemn the deaths of innocent children in Palestine, but you have secured your place in history as a state that kills children,” the Iranian film and theater actress Hengameh Ghaziani wrote on her Instagram account. “You have killed so many children and teenagers.”
“I detest your name and repulsive face throughout history,” she added.
In a series of posts on her Instagram accounts, Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie expressed her support for Iranian people and condemned the brutal treatment of minors.
“Children have the right to protection from all kinds of harm. They also have the right to a voice. #MahsaAmini. #Worldchildrensday. #UNCRC,” Ms. Jolie wrote on her Instagram account on Nov. 21.
After Kian Pirfalak’s death, the Iranian Short Film Association (ISFA) released a statement condemning the deaths of children and teenagers in recent protests.
“We, filmmakers, have encountered several red lines in our work through the years, including a ban on subject matters such as suicide and violence against children,” the ISFA statement said. “However, we have seen blatant, horrific, and unbelievable examples of these, not in films but in our streets and alleys.”
“We complied with major and minor laws and guidelines, supposedly aimed at protecting the sanctity of family and society,” the statement noted. “We accepted the directives by the Ministry of [Culture and Islamic] Guidance, whose job was to promote culture, and kept quiet because we wanted to comply with the law. However, the government is now violating those same laws.”
“We are now losing our children and youths, so how can we trust a state that does not value life and property, refuses to hear the nation’s voice, considers our children, brothers, and sisters as enemies, and fires on them? It does not even uphold its laws,” the statement argued.
“Where you refuse to take even one step back to meet people’s demands, we will take a step forward to say that we will live and work within existing reality. We will stand with the dear people of Iran,” the statement added. “Demanding rights and expressing thoughts do not need a permit except the wish and the will of the Iranian people.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian state media has used World Children’s Day to highlight the death of children in the occupied territories, ignoring the reported killing of children in Iran completely.
In a front-page editorial on Nov. 20, titled “Systematic Killing of Children in the Occupied Territories,” the Iran newspaper, owned by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), said: “According to the latest data published by the UN [Human Rights] Regional Office for the Middle East [and North Africa (ROMENA)], since the start of 2022 until the end of October, 47 Palestinian children have been martyred by the Zionist military and settlers.”
The Islamic Republic security forces have reportedly killed more Iranian children in the past two months in Iran.