Iranian security forces 'shooting at eyes of young women'
Iranian security forces are "systematically" targeting young female demonstrator's eyes as part of their crackdown on protestors, according to a human rights group.
Protestors are being shot in the head and the face, leading "to many, including a significant number of young women, being blinded," Norway-based Iran Human Rights said on Friday.
The youngest person wounded - Bonita Kiani Falavarjani, aged just six, from the city of Isfahan - was shot and blinded in one eye while standing on her grandfather's balcony, it said.
The Norway-based group said initial data indicated that young women were disproportionately represented among people who had sustained such wounds.
Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam, IHR director, said: "We don't have enough data yet, but I have the impression that young girls are over-represented among those whose eyes are targeted."
IHR said it had documented 22 cases of people being blinded in one eye as a result of fire from the security forces, nine of them women.
It said this "inhumane and unlawful act" had been "carried out systematically to crush protests."
Earlier this week, a Tehran newspaper asked a top police commander if security forces had been targeting the eyes and other sensitive areas. He insisted on their good conduct.
In one high-profile case, Kosar Khoshnoudikia, a member of Iran's national archery team, was blinded in one eye after a protest in December in the city of Kermanshah.
Asked if security forces were targeting eyes, Hassan Karami, the commander of the special police, told the Hamshahri newspaper that "not harming the protesting population" was a priority for the police forces.
"I have so much faith in the ability of the special police units that I have said many times that I will offer a reward to anyone who can prove that someone was killed as a result of a mistake by our staff," he said.
According to IHR, security forces have killed at least 488 people during the crackdown on the protests which erupted in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the country's dress code for women.
Nationwide protests that erupted after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on September 16 represent one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979.
In December, reports claimed that security forces were targeting women's genitals.
On Friday, The Telegraph revealed that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is set to be officially declared a terrorist group after 10 plots to kidnap or murder people in the UK last year.