Iranians have called on the international community to act against the Islamic Republic after a Reuters report said that about 1,500 people were killed in a brutal crackdown on protesters in the country.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei personally ordered the crackdown on protesters in November, resulting in about 1,500 deaths during less than two weeks of unrest that started on November 15, according to the report.
Last month, Iran introduced gasoline rationing and price hikes triggering protests all over the country.
Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s last monarch late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, called on the European members of the UN Security Council to take the Islamic Republic to the International Criminal Court (ICC) “instead of begging for dialogue and trade.”
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said that the Reuters report “underscores the urgency for the international community to punish the perpetrators and isolate the regime for the murder of 1,500 Iranian citizens.”
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have said the death toll was at least 304.
On the difference in the figures, prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr pointed out that human rights groups have only been able to gather a fraction of the names of those killed during the protests due to families of victims remaining silent out of fear of the repercussions.
“In this context, the Reuters report on the death toll is of great importance, especially since it cites three officials at the Ministry of Interior,” she added.
The family of Pouya Bakhtiari – a protestor killed in the November protests – has been highly outspoken against the incident. They were arrested on Tuesday for insisting on commemorating their dead son.
Iran expert Saeed Ghasseminejad made a similar observation, saying that the figure reported by Reuters does not contradict the lower figure reported by Amnesty, “as Amnesty only reports the cases it can confirm.”
He added: “It is well-documented that the regime is pressuring families of victims not to publicize the murder of their loved ones. As a result, it is reasonable to assume that for each case that Amnesty can confirm, there are many murder cases that have not been publicized by families due to unbearable pressure by the regime on families.”
New York Times journalist Farnaz Fassihi, viewed by some members of the Iranian diaspora as an “apologist” for the Islamic Republic, questioned the validity of the Reuters report “since there is no byline.”
But, Camelia Entekhabifard, the editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian said that not having a reporter’s name did not invalidate the report and added that “the Internet blackout and the state of emergency was a record of unprecedented repression.”
“A reputable news agency does not publish such news without sufficient research and resources,” she said.
Iranian officials, who are yet to release an official death count, have rejected the Reuters report.
Government spokesman Ali Rabei accused Reuters of “lying” on Wednesday, claiming that Reuters is “used to spreading such lies.”
President Hassan Rouhani's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi also commented on the Reuters report on Wednesday, calling it “exaggerated.”