As Iranian anger at their theocratic leaders rages for a fourth week, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organization said on Saturday that the death toll had risen to at least 185, including at least 19 children. Some Iranians who took part in the protests were killed instantly by security forces as they carried out a massive crackdown to quell the unrest, while others later died of their injuries.
Many Iranians injured by security forces amid the protests are too afraid to go to a hospital for treatment because some protesters seeking medical help have been detained, according to various accounts shared with CBS News. News reports claimed that Iran’s morality police — the force itselfalmost a month ago, sparking the current unrest – even using ambulances in the capital Tehran to take injured protesters directly to police stations.
“As soon as they enter the hospital, there are intelligence agents and members of the Revolutionary Guard taking down their names,” a doctor in Iran told CBS News on condition of anonymity. “We have seen cases where injured patients were operated on in hospitals and later discharged and then arrested.”
That’s why, the doctor explained, many injured protesters stay home and turn to doctors like him for help privately. He said he has seen a wide range of injuries, from a wide range of weapons.
“[The security forces] use a variety of weapons to subdue people — from plastic to lead pellets to Kalashnikovs and even sniper fire,” the doctor told CBS News. “We had one case of someone who was shot but chose to go blind rather than be admitted to the hospital.”
The doctor said he and other health professionals treating wounded protesters have been constantly threatened by Iranian authorities and pressured to sign written pledges to secede.
He said he continues regardless because many protesters are trying to treat themselves at home, “sort of,” for fear of being hospitalized.
Their desperation is clear, said Dr. Kayvan Mirhadi, Iranian-American and chief of internal medicine at Clifton Springs Hospital in New York. Mirhadi said he receives about 500 messages on Instagram a day from injured protesters in Iran pleading for medical advice.
“So a person who’s bleeding from his leg from like, a gunshot wound, he’s just waiting for me to answer the phone,” he told CBS News. “It’s just a horrible situation … because they’re so scared … They’re just waiting for me to tell them what to do.”
He said he first tries to refer them to doctors he trusts in Iran, but if they can’t find one, he tries to guide them to the best treatments he can recommend at home. Their injuries range from fractures and significant head injuries due to physical combat, to second- and third-degree burns from electric batons, as well as bullet and pellet injuries.
These accounts correspond to what Human Rights Watch (HRW) called “excessive and lethal” use of force by Iranian authorities during the protests. Iran’s security forces’ use of shotguns and assault weapons on protesters violates international norms, Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW, told CBS News.
“The drawing shows those killed by bullets, often in areas above their chest,” he said.
“I have step-by-step instructions on what to do with the burns, the bullets,” Mirhadi said. He also posts treatment suggestions on his Instagram page, including how to treat gunshot wounds to the chest and eyes.
Mirhadi said he receives many photos like the one on the left, which he said appears to show a teenage girl with multiple gunshot wounds to her back. He advised her to use tweezers to separate the pellets and then disinfect the wounds with Betadine, a topical antiseptic.
“I never give antibiotic recommendations via Instagram, but I had to, because this girl could rot [shock] because he said, “There’s no way I’m going to the hospital with this. If I go, I’ll go to jail,” Mirhadi told CBS News.
The New York doctor first gained a large social media following in Iran by providing medical advice on COVID-19.
“I feel very responsible,” he added. “The things I do in a hospital with others and nurses, I do on Instagram with a patient’s family and hope someone comes and helps.”
Another Iranian-American physician, Dr. Kamiar Alaei, and his brother Dr. Arash Alaei, who is also in the US, began remotely training medical professionals in Iran to officially document protester injuries and deaths. Both brothers are former Iranian political prisoners. They were jailed after being accused of trying to foment a soft revolution through their work to tackle HIV/AIDS in the country – a charge they both denied. Both men are also inundated with calls for help from injured protesters in Iran.
“There are different types of injuries on different parts of the body, especially on the head and hands due to the bat [strikes] and shotgun [pellets] in different parts of the body, mainly on the back and face,” Kamiar Alaei told CBS News, adding that he had never seen anything like the “scale of injuries and the number of people shot, including minors and girls” in Iran. .
“The regime aims to undermine the scale and significance of the damage by downplaying it [official] the number of people killed, because they believe that all injuries will not be detected until later,” he said. “We intend to document them to show the scale of the torture and the significance of the physical and mental injuries … to make the regime accountable before international organizations.”
Iranian authorities have not released a death toll for weeks as the crackdown continues. They stopped counting at 41.
Mirhadi said he feels almost “desperate” because he can’t keep up with all the “SOS messages” he receives.
But he has a message for Iran’s rulers: “These are your people. You’re hurting them because you’re out there protesting for their own rights. At least let the doctors treat them. Don’t take the ambulances to the detention centers. “
“These are very basic things,” he added. “It should be a basic human right to allow them to do that.”
Mirhadi said he knew a doctor in Iran who was arrested for helping protesters and could not find out what happened to him.