Tuesday , 18 February 2020

A Child, a Single Mom and a Bookseller: the Stories of those Killed in the Gasoline Protests of Iran

Radiozamaneh – Media and human rights organizations are still working on the documentation of cases of arrests, injuries and deaths of protesters who took to the streets in Iran after a hike in the price of gasoline was announced on 14 Nov 2019. The Islamic Republic of Iran has not been transparent about the death toll. Body count projects outside of the country are ongoing and the names of those killed or arrested are slowly being verified.

اینجا مریوان است: خون را به سنگفرش ببینید

A photo from the Gasoline Protests in Marivan, Kurdistan.

Most human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and UN human rights bodies, have agreed that at least 208 individuals have been killed by the Islamic Republic’s security forces. Of those 208, Zamaneh Media has independently confirmed 149 names (through the confirmation of at least two independent sources) and the names appear in this Radio Zamaneh article (in Persian) and in this PDF file (also in Persian) which get regularly updated with verified names.

Zamaneh Media’s Farzad Seifekaran has been contacting some of the families of those killed to narrate their stories. In this article, we briefly discuss the circumstances leading to the death of three individuals, Navid Behboudi (23 years old), Mina Sheikhi (59 years old) and Mohammad Dastankhah (15 years old).

Navid Behboudi: “I want to die a Martyr”

Navid Behboudi was only 23 years old when he was shot and killed in the protests that erupted in the city of Quds (Ghaleh Hassan Khan). He went out to take part in the protests on Sunday, Nov 17th, 2019. He left his house in Ghaleh Hassan Khan in the afternoon and was killed a couple of hours after.

Navid Behboudi was a protester killed in Tehran.

A source close to Navid Behboudi has spoken to Zamaneh media about his life. Before getting shot, he had called his family telling them he wants to die a martyr.

“His father called Navid at 4 pm and told him to come home for lunch, but he told his father I want to die a martyr. His father had a fight with him over the phone and asked him to return. He had said the same thing to one of his friends.  A friend, who was with him on the day he was killed, said he got out of the car and said I wanted to be a martyr today. It did not take long before a plain-clothe force shot him from a rooftop. A bullet hit Navid in the back of his head and killed him. ” a source close to Navid Behboudi told Zamaneh’s Farzad Seifekaran

Navid was working in the city of Isfahan as a bookseller and a male model. He had returned home to Ghaleh Hassan Khan to attend a wedding.

The location of his death is documented as Emarat Street in Shahr-e Quds of Tehran, near the Azadi Square. A friend calls the family from the protest to tell them Navid has been shot. The family finds Navid’s body in Kahrizak’s forensic station. According to the source who spoke to Zamaneh, Navid’s body had been ripped apart by the forensic units.

The security forces only release the body to the family on the condition that they do not bury him near his residence in the city of Quds.  “They made the family promise to bury Navid in the village of Mahvizan (in Gilan province) or else they said they would bury the body themselves,” the source told Zamaneh.

This has been a trend reported by many of the family members of those killed in the protest. The security forces have been forcing families to bury their loved ones not in urban centers but small villages away from the cities. Often villages that the families come from or small towns that the deceased was born in are selected by the security forces as the burial sites. Families are forced not to announce the funerals or hold services.

“They were told that they are not allowed to hold any ceremonies at their home and in their home town of Quds city,” the source told Zamaneh.

Navid Behboudi’s body was transported to the village of Mahvizan by a driver hired by security forces. The driver had told the family that he had carried two other corpses on his way to the village along with the security forces. According to the driver the security forces had buried the other two bodies and the driver had assumed they are unidentified bodies that they are burying.

Read more about Navid Behboudi in Radio Zamaneh Persian site.

Mina Sheikhi; A Single Mother of Six

Mina Sheikhi was not even in the street protests when she was killed by stray bullets on 15 Nov 2018. Farzad Seifekaran has spoken to a source close to the family who says, Mina Sheikhi was at home in her apartment building watching the protests from her window when three stray bullets came flying through the window striking her in the chest. She died on her way to Fayazbakhsh Hospital, just across the street in the Khalij-e Fars neighborhood in southwestern Tehran.

Mina Sheikhi was killed in Tehran.

The family thinks the source of the bullets where plainclothes forces who were shooting into the air causing the stray bullets to reach the froth floor of the apartment building Sheikhi was residing at.

Mina Sheikhi was born in the city of Saqqez in the Kurdistan province. She was a single mother of six. Her husband died young in life. She had come to Tehran to find employment for herself and her now-grown children.

After transferring Mina Sheikh to the hospital, security forces took her body to the forensic department for investigations but never provided the family with the report. The security forces also refused to release the body to the family at first.  After three days, with continued family follow-up, the family was forced to sign an affidavit promising not to announce or hold funerals and not to release any information on the circumstances of their mother’s death.

“At first they would not release the body. After we kept following up they agreed to release the body. But they forced us to sign an affidavit that we will not make noise. And that no one should gather for the burial. They even said we cannot publish or distribute funeral announcements,” a source close to the family told Zamaneh.

The source who has given an audio interview to Zamaneh says that in the end, the security forces did not release the body to family to bury their mother in the cemetery of their choosing. The security forced picked the burial site and delivered the body to a cemetery in her birth town of Saqqez, 600 km away from her residence in Tehran.

“They delivered the body on the afternoon of November 19th. But of course, they did not release the body directly to the family. They sent the body directly to a cemetery in a car and they choose a route unknown to the family. All those who had traveled from Saqqez to Tehran to attend the funeral drove back to Saqqez. They also assigned her a burial site in the Aichi cemetery in Saqqez. The family had prepared a burial site for her in the Shohada Cemetery next to the grave of her brother.”

Two of the younger family members of Mina Sheikhi who were in their twenties were arrested in Saqqez for posting a paper announcement of the funeral in town. Posting pamphlets announcing the death of a loved one is a common practice in Iran. The two young men were arrested and beaten and only released if the family promised to make a hasty plan for the burial in Saqqez.

Coming from a long line of Kurdish fighters, two of Mina Sheikhi’s brothers has been executed by the Islamic Republic in the past. This made her family target of much harassment regarding her burial arrangements.

Mina Sheikhi was buried at 3 am on the 20th of November in Saqqez. The source close to the family told Zamaneh that the whole cemetery was filled with security forces and plainclothes Basiji forced, as the family was burying Mina Sheikhi.

Read More about Mina Sheikhi in Zamaneh’s Persian site.

Mohammad Dastankhah: A Schoolboy who Never Came Back Home

Mohammad Dastankhah, was only fifteen years old when he was shot and killed at an unknown location in Shiraz. Mohammad left home to go to school on the 16th of Nov 2019. At 4 pm his mother learned that schools were closed due to the street protests in Shiraz. She calls the school and learns from the principle that Mohammad was sent back home.

Mohammad Dastankhah was only 15 when he was shot.

Mohammad Dastankhah’s sister Ghazal and his father Gholamreza have spoken to Zamaneh. Ghazal, who is a university student told Zamaneh: “we were unaware of the protests and that schools were closed.”

Mohammad Dastankhah was neither a protester nor a rioter, bullets went through his heart and he was shot and killed by Special Forces. Mohammad was a student at Ferdowsi School and a resident of Sadra town in Shiraz. He came from a working-class family of five.

After a long search of the streets and hospitals, the family finally identified Mohammed at the Sadra Organ Transplant Hospital in the late hours of Saturday the 16th of Nov. They were told that a private car had brought Muhammad’s body to the hospital.

Ghazal Dastankhah says that she witnessed seven other killed bodies in the hospital morgue when she went to identify her brother’s body:

“When we went to Sadra Hospital, there were about 70 people who were wounded or dead. In the morgue, there were seven other people killed with my brother.”

After the identification of Mohammad’s body, the family is told that the body has to go through forensic investigation and an autopsy. Five days after the identification of the body, forensic investigation is complete. However, the results of the autopsy are not fully disclosed to the family. They are only told that Mohammad has suffered severe damage to the heart, spleen, and lungs as a result of a hard object “most probably bullets” entering the body.

The Dastankhah family was not forced to leave Shiraz to bury their son’s body. They had made it clear to the authorities that they plan to bury Mohammad in their village of Koohsabz in the Marvdasht region.

According to Mohammad’s sister, the state has promised them blood money but she says “will that money bring back my brother?”

Mohammad is not the only child who has been killed in the crackdown on the protest of Oct 2019 in Iran. These are the names of some of the children killed which the circumstances leading to their death has been confirmed by Zamaneh Media:

Ali Ghazlawi, 12 years old – Khorramshahr
Khaled Ghazlawi, 16 years old – Khorramshahr
Hesam Barani Rad, 17 years old – Ravansar
Alireza Nouri, 17 years old – Shahriar
Mohammad Berihi, 17 years old – Ahvaz
Nikita Esfandani, 14 years old – Tehran
Armin Ghaderi, 15 years old – Kermanshah
Amir Reza Abdollahi, 13 years old – Islam Shahr
Pedram Jafari, 18 years old – Karaj
Sasan Eidivandy, 17 years old – Yazdan Shahr
Amir Hossein Dadvand, 17 years old – Isfahan
Arian Rajabi, 17 years old – Marivan
Ahmed Al-Buali, 17 years old – Mahshahr
Mojahed Jameie, 17 years – Kot Abdullah
Reza Nisi, 15 years old – Ahvaz
Pejman (Ali) Gholipour, 18 years old – Karaj
Mohammad Reza Ahmadi, 17 years old, Sanandaj
Mohsen Mohammadpour, 17 years old – Khorramshahr
Ahmad Mousavi Jauale, 17 years old – Shushtar
Mohammad Dastankhah, 15 years old – Sadra Town of Shiraz

Rear more about Mohammad Dastankhah in Radio Zamaneh Persian site.