Videos captured by the public and shared on social media have shown the world how Iran’s security forces deal with those who dare oppose the regime: beatings, arrests and lethal force. Women and young people have most often been the victims. But evidence is emerging that Iran’s elderly have not escaped the same harsh treatment, whether they have joined the widespread protests deliberately or have been caught up in the conflict inadvertently.
Threatened with a baton for loitering too long
Among the latter group is Mohammad, a 75-year-old resident of Tehran. He told IranWire how he was beaten by plain-clothes officers at the intersection of Palestine and Republic avenues, where a protest rally was taking place.
“It was midday and I was returning home. I stopped for a moment just to see what was going on. I’m too old to take part in demonstrations myself. All the same, a plain-clothes policeman threatened me with his baton and told me to get going.
“I have never given in to bullying and never will. I told him I was doing nothing, and was just returning home, but he kept on repeating himself and screaming. We started quarreling. He pushed me and wanted to hit me with his baton, but a police officer with a few stars on his shoulders came over and separated us.
“He told me that these guys [the plain-clothes agents] have no mercy. It makes no difference to them if you are old, young or a child.
“People are doing the right thing when they catch them in a back alley and beat them because these guys would kill even the elderly if they can, let alone the poor youngsters.”
Arrested at home and still missing
Rosita Motameni and Gholamreza Manouchehri are a retired couple who live in the central city of Yazd. Security forces raided their home on October 8 and detained both of them, even though both are weak and sick and are unable to leave home.
Their son Matin Manouchehri – a university student in Spain – does not know where they were taken and is desperate for news. “I have no information about my parents’ situation,” he told IranWire. “I didn’t want to tell the media about it but as it has gone on for a long time and they are both sick I decided that I had to.
“My mother recently had surgery on her leg and has to use a walking stick to move around, even at home. Neither of them has ever joined a protest rally.”
“Security forces arrived in a car, searched the house and confiscated the electronic equipment. I don’t even know what they took because my elderly grandmother, who lives with my parents, cannot see very well and nobody else was there to witness what was happening,” Manouchehri says.
Despite their own ill-health, Manouchehri’s parents cared for his grandmother, who is now living alone with no one to care for her.
“Since Saturday [October 8], my mother has only been able to make one short phone call to my grandmother. My grandmother is 90-something and she could not get any specific information from my mother. We don’t know who arrested them or where my parents are now.”
Arrested for Trying to Prevent the Arrest of a Young Woman
Manouchehri says he and his mother Rosita Motameni were arrested in early 2020 during protests over the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 by the Iranian military. His mother had stepped in to prevent a young female protester from being arrested.
“My mother and I had left home to do something. My mother saw that the agents wanted to arrest a young woman and stepped forward to prevent them. Before I could get there, one of the agents that my mother was talking to started shouting obscenities at people. He was under the impression that my mother was the mother of the young woman they wanted to arrest. When I stepped forward, a quarrel followed and then a riot policeman tasered me and arrested us.”
The nationwide protests over the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, 2020, started on January 11 of that year. Most of the slogans chanted by protesters were aimed at the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards. They called on Khamenei to resign and wanted those responsible for shooting down the plane to be put on trial. Just as in 2022, security forces beat protesters, shot at them and arrested them in order to quell the protests.
Matin Manouchehri says he and his mother were released from detention the following day after signing pledges to behave in the future. He asserts that no member of his family has ever been politically active and, what is more, his mother’s physical condition and his father’s heart ailment make it impossible for them to participate in protests: “Both my parents are over 60 and ill. My father suffers from a chronic heart problem and has to take medication. And I have never been politically active so no one can say they’ve been arrested because of me. My father is a retired employee of Yazd University of Medical Sciences and my mother a retired employee of Yazd Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“My grandmother really needs somebody to take care of her and has no one apart from them. And, considering the current situation, I cannot return to Iran,” he told IranWire from Spain.
The Uprising for a “Normal Life”
While many describe the current protests as a “revolution by young Iranians”, there have been many reports of the support by the elderly, the retired and people who are physically unable to take to the streets.
“Yesterday we were in the protests when the [riot police] attacked us,” says one tweet that was posted on September 21. “An old couple opened the door to their house so that those of us who’d been trapped in a blind alley could escape into their yard. I want to say this: They might not have taken part in the protests but at least they helped in this way.”
There are reports of elderly women taking part in protests in various cities of the province of Kurdistan. On September 20, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a group that monitors Kurdish-inhabited areas of western Iran, reported the death of Hajar Abbasi, a 70-year-old woman who was severely wounded by direct fire from security forces in the Kurdish city of Mahabad in West Azerbaijan on September 18. IranWire has not yet been able to confirm this report.
In a video posted on Tweeter on October 13, an 80-year-old woman says “I always wore hijab and said my prayers. My faith in my God was complete [but] now, for the sake of our young people, I say no to forced hijab.”
It now seems that the elderly – who remember life in Iran before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and who may share the wishes of younger women, students and others who want to live a normal life with basic freedoms – can expect no better treatment than the rest at the hands of the regime’s security forces.