Iran is cruel to the families of those killed in the protests on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death | International
Mahsa Amini's grave in the Aichi cemetery in Saqqez, Iranian Kurdistan (west), has been converted into a shrine. Since her death in police custody on September 16, thousands of Iranians have gathered at the tombstone of the 22-year-old Kurdish girl, detained in Tehran for not wearing her veil properly. That tomb is also the haven in which many relatives of other dead people seek solace. They are the fathers, mothers and brothers of those who perished due to the repression of the demonstrations against the regime triggered by the fateful end of Amini, of which this Saturday marks one year.
Activists and Iranian media in exile have warned this week of a large military and security force deployment with helicopters and even tanks in the young woman's native region, especially in Saqqez and in the cemetery, in order to prevent the Protests quelled months ago are revived. According to the medium IranwireIranian security forces have surrounded Amini's parents' house for days.
That deployment includes squads of the Revolutionary Guard – the parallel army to the regular one in charge of defending the regime – according to the Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw. The agents circulate in Sanandaj, the regional capital, and threaten to kill anyone who participates in a demonstration, the organization denounced in a tweet.
In video footage obtained by Hengaw, motorcycle squads of the IRGC equipped with lethal weapons maneuver in the "Farajeh" neighborhood in Sanandaj (Sine), threatening and warning the residents that any protest will be dealt with deadly.
September 15, 2023#JinaAmini…
— Hengaw Organization for Human Rights (@Hengaw_English) September 15, 2023
“The regime is terrified by the possibility that the protests will be reactivated on this anniversary,” highlights the Iranian activist exiled in Spain Ryma Sheermohammadi, who confirms, citing her sources in Iran, “a national security device” to, First of all, put pressure on the victims' families. “Mahsa Amini's entire family is threatened,” she adds. On September 5, the young woman's brother reported on Instagram that her uncle, Safa Aeli, 30, had been arrested. Amini's father underwent yet another interrogation this Thursday, says Sheermohammadi.
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran, established by the UN Human Rights Council in November 2022, had alluded that same day in a statement to “very worrying” information that “the authorities could have intimidated and harassed Yina's family [el nombre kurdo de] Mahsa, including his father, Ahmjad Amini, to prevent him from mourning his death.” The United Nations confirms in its note the arrest of the young woman's uncle and denounces that her “fate and whereabouts” are unknown.
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Iranian authorities appear to be especially afraid of mourning ceremonies for the deceased. Iranian activists say Amini's family and other victims have been prohibited from honoring their loved ones this Saturday. The regime seems aware that the relatives of the more than 500 dead in the demonstrations, estimated by human rights organizations in exile, arouse the solidarity of many Iranians. These broken families therefore have the power to summon thousands of citizens to tributes in which the fuse of the protests that were quelled at the beginning of the year could be rekindled. In them, at least 22,000 people were also detained, according to official figures.
“On the eve of the first anniversary of Yina Mahsa's death, the authorities have intensified harassment and intimidation of protesters' relatives, including children,” the UN statement said. “In recent weeks, dozens of relatives have been detained or summoned for questioning.” As of late August alone, Iranian authorities had arrested “at least 28” relatives of the victims, according to Iran's Prison Atlas. Of the 102 cases of relatives of those killed in the demonstrations prosecuted in Iran in the last year, 13 already have sentences of 28 years in prison and 168 lashes, according to this database of the Iranian organization in exile United for Iran.
The data from Amnesty International's latest report on Iran from August, which includes the stories of 36 families of victims, confirms that the regime's response to the pain of these families has not only been to imprison some of their members. On the contrary, he has responded with the denial of what one of the investigators of the UN fact-finding mission, lawyer Viviana Krsticevic, defines as a “search for truth, justice and reparation”, in a WhatsApp conversation with this newspaper. Friday.
No police or paramilitary have been prosecuted for deaths in the demonstrations. The culprits continue to be protected by “total impunity,” said Carlos de las Heras, Iran expert at Amnesty International, by telephone.
One of the relatives of victims arrested – on August 22 – is Mashallah Karami, father of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 20, one of the seven men hanged after trials called “shams” by human rights organizations. After the execution of his son, three other sons of this man had already been arrested. This family was also prohibited from holding a funeral for their executed son. Another detainee is the mother of Erfan Rezayi, 21, who was shot dead in October 2022. The woman had photographed herself days before holding a photo of her son next to her grave.
A special case is that of the nine-year-old boy Kian Pirfaliak, who died in a shootout by security forces on November 16 in Izeh (center), according to Amnesty. The authorities attributed his death to a terrorist attack and sentenced a man to hanging, whose innocence is defended by the family of his alleged victim. Denying the official version of the child's death has earned his parents interrogations and threats. In a ceremony at the little boy's grave on the day he would have turned 10, June 11, security forces shot dead Pouya Pirfaliak, 20 years old and cousin of Kian's mother, the organization denounces.
These and other families have in common having accused the security forces of the deaths of their loved ones. They also share having ignored the prohibition on honoring their dead, under penalty of suffering reprisals. That was what happened when those close to Milad Saeedianjoo, 23, shot on November 15, tried to pay tribute to him at his grave on his birthday.
Those attending the ceremony were attacked by security forces and two of their brothers were detained. Her sister Zahra described on Instagram how she was hit with a baton by a police officer, who grabbed her by the hair and stomped on her brother's grave. In July, this young woman was detained without her family knowing her whereabouts, according to Amnesty. She was released on bail in August, but she is accused of “spreading propaganda against the system.”
The “harassment” of family members that De las Heras describes goes beyond death: “The graves of at least 20 victims of the repression of the demonstrations have been desecrated. Among them is that of Amini”, who has appeared twice with the glass covering the photograph of the young woman shattered.
This newspaper requested the Iranian Embassy in Spain for the official version of the Iranian authorities regarding these accusations. His response was: “The allegations raised are not accurate.”
The repression, adds activist Sheermohammadi, is not only directed against the relatives of the victims. “In Iran, all activists are threatened; “They have all been summoned, especially those granted amnesty after being detained in the protests.” Even people “who had nothing to do with the demonstrations have been retaliated against.”
As Shadi Shahidzadeh, a 39-year-old housewife of the Bahai religion, arrested in May in Tehran and sentenced to five years in prison "for demanding that the authorities hand over her grandmother's body to her for burial," explains by phone from Canary Islands his cousin Mahshid Moharrami Zaer. The old woman's remains had been in a morgue for a month because her family had refused to pay an "astronomical" amount that an official demanded of them to bury her in the cemetery of that religious minority, also persecuted by the Iranian regime.
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