Nearly two dozen children were killed last month during protests in Iran, according to a new report by a human rights watchdog that accuses the country’s security forces of targeting young people “with absolute impunity.”
The 19-page report released by Amnesty International on Thursday said at least 23 children – some as young as 11 – were killed by security forces in the last 10 days of September alone.
Nationwide protests against the Islamic regime that has ruled Iran for decades have gripped the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month after she was taken into custody by the country’s morality police for apparently not wearing her hijab properly. Her death has sparked violent clashes between demonstrators and authorities, reportedly leaving scores dead.
In a statement, Amnesty said the “brutal crackdown” by Iranian authorities “on what many in Iran consider an ongoing popular uprising against the Islamic Republic system has involved an all-out attack on child protesters who have courageously taken to the streets in search of a future without political oppression and inequality.”
“The child victims include 20 boys, aged between 11 and 17, and three girls, two of whom were 16 years old and one 17 years old,” the statement said.
Amnesty said “nearly half of the recorded child victims” belonged to a minority group and were killed by Iranian security forces during “Bloody Friday” on September 30 – described by the rights watchdog as the “deadliest day” of the government’s crackdown.
“Iran’s security forces have killed with absolute impunity at least 23 children and injured many more in a bid to crush the spirit of resistance among the country’s youth and retain their iron grip on power at any cost,” Amnesty’s statement said.
The rights group said they believe “the real number of children killed by Iran’s security forces is higher” and they are continuing to investigate.
The death toll reported by Amnesty does not include any children killed during protests in October, including a 7-year-old boy who died in his mother’s arms on Sunday after security forces fired into a crowd of protesters, according to a report by Oslo-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw.
In total, Amnesty said it has recorded the names and details of 144 men, women and children killed by Iran’s security forces between the start of the protests and October 3.
CNN cannot independently verify the death toll – a precise figure is impossible for anyone outside the Iranian government to confirm – and different estimates have been given by opposition groups, international rights organizations, and Iranian journalists.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called the protesters “agents of the West” and called for them to be punished, according to state news agency IRNA.