The mother of an Iranian teenager who died after joining protests over the death of Mahsa Amini has accused authorities of murdering her daughter and pressuring her to say her death was a suicide , caused by jumping from the roof of a building.
In a video sent to US-funded Radio Farda on Thursday, Nasrin Shahkarami said she was under pressure to make a false statement about the death of 16-year-old Nika, who disappeared on September 20 after being left to join an anti-hijab protest in Tehran.
Protests have erupted across Iran over the death of 22-year-old Kurdish girl Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by vice squads in Tehran for allegedly breaking the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The scale of the Iranian government‘s crackdown on protests is only now becoming clear, with rights groups saying more than 1,200 people have been arrested in street protests, including 92 in pre-emptive raids by the security services. Amnesty International has put the death toll from a security service shootout in Zahedan, Balochistan province, at 87, considerably more than previously. As the protests die down for now, Iran’s national police say 1,200 of their officers have been injured.
The average age of those killed in the protests is 20, according to human rights groups.
Nika Shahkarami’s death has become almost as totemic as that of Amini herself, with photographs of her circulating on the internet and conflicting accounts provided by family and the state as to how she died.
After participating in the September 20 protests, according to her family, in the last phone call she said she was fleeing the security forces.
Nika’s family say her body was stolen by security forces and was only returned to her family on October 1, 10 days after she disappeared. His family had planned to bury him in the western city of Khorramabad on what would have been his 17th birthday, his aunt Atash Shahkarami wrote on social media. Instead, the security services buried her in her father’s village without asking permission from the family, it is claimed.
Although they were prevented from seeing her body, Nika’s mother and aunt saw that her nose had been broken and her head injured. In the official death certificate, circulating online, his cause of death was listed as “multiple blows caused by a hard object”.
Nika’s aunt and uncle were later arrested, and on Wednesday evening the aunt appeared on state television saying that Nika had been “thrown” from a multi-story building near her own home, a Government-aligned national media explanation backed Wednesday night by airing CCTV footage late at night of her entering a semi-disused building the night of the protests. Tehran officials said there were no bullet marks on his body.
Government media suggested she fell from the roof and her bag was found on the roof. It remains disputed why, if his body was discovered on the street in the morning, it was not possible to identify his body more quickly, contact his family or let his family view the body.
But Nika’s mother, Nasrin, claimed in a video uploaded that her sister Atash “was forced to make the confession and broadcast it”.
“We expected them to say whatever they wanted to exculpate themselves…and they actually got involved,” Nasrin Shahkarami said.
“I probably don’t have to try that hard to prove they’re lying…my daughter was killed in the protests the very day she went missing.”
The mother said a forensic report found she was “killed on that date and due to repeated blunt trauma to the head”.
“I saw my daughter’s body myself… The back of her head showed that she had suffered a very severe blow as her skull had collapsed. This is how she was killed .”
Nasrin Shahkarami said authorities tried to call her several times but she refused to answer.
“But they’ve been calling others, my uncles, others, saying if Nika’s mom doesn’t come forward and say the things we want, basically confess the script that we want and have created, then we do this and that, and threaten me.”
The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on Thursday it still held the Islamic Republic responsible for Nika’s death.
He said: “Given the Islamic Republic’s long history of covering up, lying and manipulating evidence, Iran Human Rights rejects the official account of Nika’s death due to contradictions and flaws, and holds the ‘Iran [republic] responsible for his murder. »
Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, said: “The evidence points to the government’s role in the murder of Nika Shakarami; unless the contrary is proven by an independent fact-finding mission under the supervision of the United Nations.
“Until such a committee is formed, the responsibility for Nika’s murder, like that of other victims of the current protests, rests with Ali Khamenei and the forces under his command.”
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), said: “Iranian prisons were already full of political prisoners, and now the prisons and detention centers are swollen with protesters as the authorities act to crush the social outcry. in the face of government repression and brutality.
He added: “We are deeply concerned about the potential for gross human rights abuses, including torture and killings that we saw during the 2019 and 2009 protests.
“World leaders and UN officials must urgently call for the release of political prisoners in Iran and an immediate end to arbitrary arrests and state violence against protesters, students and members of Civil society.