Children protesters pay with their lives

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AFP) — Iranian youths involved in the protest movement have paid with their lives with the United States-based rights group HRANA identifying at least 18 minors dead — the youngest just 12 years old.

But the overall number of children killed is widely believed to be much higher.

Iran’s Children’s Rights Protection Society said this week that at least 28 had lost their lives, including many from the underprivileged province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

The Tehran-based group said families were being “kept in the dark” about the whereabouts of their children, and that their cases were going ahead without proper legal representation.

Human rights lawyer Hassan Raisi said some of the children arrested were being held in detention centres for adult drug offenders.

Anyone “under the age of 18 must never be held with any criminal over 18… This is a legal requirement, not a recommendation,” the London-based Iran Wire news website quoted human rights lawyer Hassan Raisi as saying Wednesday.

“Around 300 people between the ages of 12 to 13 and 18 to 19 are in police custody,” he said, without elaborating.

Among those slain in the protests are Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh — two 16-year-old girls whose deaths triggered an outpouring of grief in Iran and around the world.

Iran has been rocked by nearly a month of demonstrations driven by public outrage over Mahsa Amini’s death after the morality police arrested her for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.

Night after night, young women and schoolgirls have appeared on the streets with their hair exposed and fists raised, chanting “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator.”

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