Witness Name and Surname: Withheld
Witness’s Sex: Male
Place testified about: Tehran
Witness’s condition: Medical personnel; witnessed people injured in protests
Type of testimony before the Tribunal: Withheld
I was doing my hospital internship during November 2019. I used to work a couple of days a week in the hospital ICU. The first week after the peaceful protests began and the Internet was shut down; I remember very well that we had a lot of headaches and no access to online medical resources. When I came to the hospital on Wednesday, 20 November 2019, a patient had just been admitted. He was a young man, twenty-something years old, and a protester who had been hit with a bullet in his temple. His family were able to have him admitted to the hospital, but only after a great deal of difficulty because the government agents were preventing those who had been shot from getting into an ambulance. His family initially admitted him to a private hospital. After being examined, they brought him to our hospital as the private hospital did not have the necessary equipment for brain surgery.
On the 20th of November, he had just come out of the brain and neurology operating room. According to his surgery specialist physician, one-fourth of the patient’s brain had spilt. After hitting his temple, the bullet had exited from the patient’s skull. The direction of the bullet was such that it entered the right side of the temple at an angle and exited from the front of the forehead, and one-fourth of the patient’s brain had disintegrated entirely. According to the surgery physicians and the ICU physician, a few pieces of bone had remained in the patient’s skull; they removed those skull bones from the patient’s head during the surgery. The intensity of the injury indicated that the bullet was not fired from a sidearm used in self-defence by police nor from an air gun. Instead, the bullet had to have come from a war weapon such as a Dragunov or Kalashnikov and was fired at this person’s head deliberately with the intent to kill. The physical condition of this patient was relatively stabilised through the use of over fourteen medications, but his consciousness was fragile. According to the specialised physicians’ evaluation, it was only one degree better than brain dead and a vegetative state. He could not move his left eye and hand or his legs. He had a great deal of difficulty swallowing and could not talk at all. Worst of all, he could not breathe naturally and was fighting death with the help of a ventilator.
When I went to the hospital the next week, the patient’s lungs developed an intense infection, and the infection physician was concerned that he might die soon. According to the ICU clinical pharmacist, the cause of the lung infection was the patient’s inability to swallow; secretions dripping down from the throat had entered his lungs. His family was highly anxious and staged a sit-in behind the ICU door. I spoke to his elder brother; he said that the patient was an active and well-behaved boy; he had joined the protests because he wanted to be liberated from the government’s oppression and corruption. In this, too, he acted utterly peacefully and non-violently.
In my free time, I visited him. His level of consciousness slightly improved. According to nurses, when awake for a few hours, he could communicate by making signs with his right hand when someone called or spoke to him in a loud voice. I talked to him and told him that he would get well, but he had to be strong. He would look at me. Although one of his eyes did not function, he would look at my lips with his right eye and then move his finger. I took his photograph with my cell phone; although it was prohibited in terms of ethics, I did it to record evidence. One of my colleagues said that the day before, certain plainclothesmen entered the ICU after intimidating the staff and making inquiries about the patient. According to him, there were four of them. They asked questions like: “How was he injured? Did the bullet hit from the front or the side?” They said that if the bullet had hit him from the front, it meant that he had attacked the police and was at fault. But he was neither armed nor did he act violently.
Moreover, the weapons used by the police were pistols or Colts, but the bullet that hit the patient was far more destructive than the bullets of side arms. Secondly, the bullet had not hit him from the front, proving he was innocent. That day, I spoke again with the patient’s brother and told him what had happened. I emphasised that if unidentified individuals asked him questions about the direction from which the bullet hit, he should not answer and consult his lawyer. A few days later, the infection in the patient’s lungs subsided, and he was released from the ICU after a tracheotomy (the trachea or the windpipe of the patient was opened by surgery so he could breathe this way and could get rid of the ventilator). However, the patient’s consciousness remained at the same level, and there was no hope for his return to everyday life.