America’s top diplomat for Iran has pointed to a CNN sexual assault investigation that revealed sexual assaults against male and female activists, describing the news as “unspeakable.”
Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, said the administration would not be able to stop the protests that have spread across the country in the past two months.
“This report describes unspeakable sexual abuse by Iranian officials in detention centers,” Robert Malley, the US special envoy to Iran, wrote on Thursday today. tweet about CNN’s investigation. “It’s a reminder of what’s at stake for the Iranian people — and of how far the regime will go in its futile attempt to silence dissent.”
Iran has been gripped by anti-government protests since the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country’s morality police, apparently for not wearing her hijab properly.
In a CNN investigation released Monday, secret testimony revealed sexual abuse of protesters, including boys, in Iran’s detention centers since the start of the unrest.
CNN went to the area near Iraq’s border with Iran, interviewed eyewitnesses who left the country, and verified the accounts of survivors and sources both inside and outside Iran. CNN confirmed several reports of sexual violence against protesters and heard accounts of many more.
At least one of them caused serious injury and another involved the rape of a minor boy. In some of the cases uncovered by CNN, the sexual assault was recorded and used to silence protesters, according to sources who spoke to the victims.
Malley has led the U.S. negotiating team to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — which former President Donald Trump pulled out of — for nearly two years. The deal would involve Iran halting its uranium enrichment program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iran’s violent crackdown on protesters has brought the talks to a halt. In October, Malley said the United States would not “waste our time” on the nuclear deal “if nothing happens.”
He said the United States remains committed to diplomacy to curb Iran’s nuclear program, but has turned its attention away from efforts to reach a nuclear deal amid widespread protests in Iran and arms transfers from Tehran to Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
The special envoy’s comments reflected how stalled talks to restore the nuclear deal have become – talks that the US and allies believed had broken through months ago. The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday that Iran has enriched up to 60% at its Fordow underground nuclear power plant.
Over the past week, more than 40 people have died, including at least two children, as Iran was rocked by protests, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office (OCHR). The country’s Kurdish regions have borne the brunt of the crackdown, with videos on social media showing large numbers of Iranian forces in the Kurdish cities of Javanrud and Saqqez. The video also showed security forces firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters.
UN human rights chief Volker Türk said the rising death toll underscored the regime’s crackdown on protesters and “the situation in the country. According to information from the United Nations, over 300 people have died since the protests began in mid-September.
According to OCHR, more than 40 children have been killed since the protests began in September, including two 16-year-old boys who died over the weekend. In a statement, it also discussed actions against prominent Iranians, including celebrities and athletes.
On Sunday, Iranian actresses Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were arrested for showing support for the protest movement online.
In a sign of growing discontent in Iran, the national soccer team did not sing the national anthem at the start of the World Cup against England on Monday.
The UN agency reminded the Iranian authorities of their obligation under international human rights law to “respect and guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
“We call on the authorities to release all those detained in connection with exercising their rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, and to drop the charges against them,” OCHR said.
More than 14,000 people have been arrested in connection with the protests, according to the UN. At least six of them have been sentenced to death.