By Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jomana Karadsheh and Tara Subramaniam, CNN
CNN — Nearly two dozen children were killed last month during protests in Iran, according to a new report by a human rights watchdog that accuses the country’s security forces of targeting young people “with absolute impunity.”
The 19-page report released by Amnesty International on Thursday said at least 23 children – some as young as 11 – were killed by security forces in the last 10 days of September alone.
Nationwide protests against the Islamic regime that has ruled Iran for decades have gripped the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last month after she was taken into custody by the country’s morality police for apparently not wearing her hijab properly. Her death has sparked violent clashes between demonstrators and authorities, reportedly leaving scores dead.
In a statement, Amnesty said the “brutal crackdown” by Iranian authorities “on what many in Iran consider an ongoing popular uprising against the Islamic Republic system has involved an all-out attack on child protesters who have courageously taken to the streets in search of a future without political oppression and inequality.”
“The child victims include 20 boys, aged between 11 and 17, and three girls, two of whom were 16 years old and one 17 years old,” the statement said.
Amnesty said “nearly half of the recorded child victims” belonged to a minority group and were killed by Iranian security forces during “Bloody Friday” on September 30 – described by the rights watchdog as the “deadliest day” of the government’s crackdown.
“Iran’s security forces have killed with absolute impunity at least 23 children and injured many more in a bid to crush the spirit of resistance among the country’s youth and retain their iron grip on power at any cost,” Amnesty’s statement said.
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The rights organization stated that they are still looking into the matter and that they believe “the real number of children killed by Iran’s security forces is higher.”
According to a report by the Kurdish rights organization Hengaw in Oslo, the death toll listed by Amnesty does not include any children killed during protests in October, including a 7-year-old boy who passed away on Sunday in his mother’s arms after security forces opened fire into a crowd of protesters.
Between the beginning of the protests and October 3, according to Amnesty International, 144 men, women, and children were killed by Iranian security forces.
Different estimates have been made by opposition groups, international rights organizations, and Iranian journalists, but CNN is unable to independently confirm the death toll because it is impossible for anyone outside of the Iranian government to confirm a precise number.
According to state news agency IRNA, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referred to the protesters as “agents of the West” and demanded that they be punished.
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