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23 – A Tragic Number

This has become a tragic number, 23, one that hangs over the dirty forehead of the Islamic Republic and its forty-one-year history of blood, pain and crime like a Turbah’s callus. Fereidoun Farrokhzad sang a song before he was slaughtered in his home, he didn’t sing it really, he screamed for the 23 people who were killed in the early years of the 1979 revolution, in the “golden age of Imam Rahel (Rohullah Khomeini) and Mir Hossein.” Saeid Soltanpour was one of those 23, whose executors exploited his “Winter is Over” song politically in their election campaigns, when they were hankering for power in 2009.

Years have passed since the war with Iraq, during which the regime had sent thousands of children and teenagers to be slaughtered. In order to get rid of the charge of “using children and teenagers”, the regime’s propaganda machine decided to spend a lot of money and showed a fable in the war propaganda genre at nation’s cinemas. The result was a movie that was titled “23 People”. A sanctification of a devastating war will produce nothing but “kitsch war”.

The production of promotional and fantasy movie, 23 People, started with the presence of Qassim Soleimani on the set and finished on 2018. The film was premiered at the Fajr Film Festival, one of propaganda machines for the regime, in December 2019. But a month before the screening, another 23 were dragged in blood and dirt on the streets of this land’s cities, by Owj propaganda agency’s coworkers at IRGC. IRGC and Basij members killed 23 Iranian children and adolescents, kidnapped their bodies, pressured their families so that no one could raise their voices and their groans cannot be heard. 23 children and adolescents were buried underground at night.

Now, nearly 4 months after the bloody November, Amnesty International has released a detailed report on this “children killing”. This 36-page document details the killings and investigations into the identities of these 23 children and their families. The report is divided into 6 sections. In the first section, the events are briefly described. The second part covers the methodology of the investigation and the background of the events and the third part introduces the children who were killed by the agents of the regime. The timing, geographical distribution, and conditions under which these killings took place are also described in this section. Part four of the report is devoted to the regime’s efforts to keep the killings secret and to silence the families and relatives of the murdered children. The report clearly states that the regime uses every possible force from military and security agencies to IRIB and senior officials of the regime to cover up the massacre and hide crimes committed by its agents from the public eye. In this section, Amnesty International paints a picture of anti-humanist and predatory system that first kills its citizens’ innocent children deliberately, then goes to families. Threatens them. Terrorize them. It does not allow them to hold funerals the way they want. Forces them to lie in front of cameras or for the sake of being dubbed a martyr and some money, they are forced to remain silent and sign documents in which they declare a “fictional enemy” as the killer of children, and no fault is directed at the regime.

BBC Persian has distorted Amnesty International’s report as a summary, saying: “There have been confirmed cases (of the killing of children) by the IRIB. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, also visited the families of some of the children.” Anyone who has not read the report, which applies to the majority, will think that IRIB has gone to the families to confirm the killings and giving them a platform, or that Ali Shamkhani has gone to comfort the families. BBC Persian actually omits a large part of the report and leaves it unsaid, otherwise both the complicity of IRIB with security agencies and the role of Ali Shamkhani in regime’s fabrication of events, are clearly explained in the Amnesty International report.

Part 5 of Amnesty International’s report calls on the Islamic Republic to comply with international laws and standards, and in Part 6, the organization recommends to the Islamic Republic’s agencies and institutions to change their approach in dealing with this issue in order to have a way out of the crisis.

Amnesty International has gathered some photos and characteristics of these children and included them in the appendix to this shocking report. There are no pictures for 5 of these loved ones. In the case of a child, it is not even clear what his/her first name is. “Kanaani” was the surname of this child from Mahshahr. His exact age is also unclear, we only know that “Kanaani” was between 8 to 12 years old. The little Kanaani was killed by the armed forces of Seyed Ali Khamenei on Monday, November 18, 2019, in Mahshahr with heavy machine guns such as DShK.

From some children who fell victim to the totalitarian Islamic regime, only fragments of their obituary are left. From some others: a photo of a piece of black stone, on top of cold soil, with a name engraved on a polished surface, a name that no one will ever call out.

This post is a translation of this article by Sahar.

Cover: The Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens (1638)

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