Friday , 27 November 2020

Babak Asadi: A Young Protester Who Died Eight Years After Police Assault – On November 9, 2020, a video was posted online that showed a middle-aged woman from Iran, talking about her son. She introduces herself as Shamsi Khamse, mother of Babak Asadi, a young man who became a casualty of the 2009 protests. This is the first time his name has come to light in connection with the tumult that engulfed Iran that year.

Babak was born in Iran in November 1985. During a demonstration on July 9, 2009, an officer beat Babak so badly with the stock of his gun that his spleen, intestine and pancreas were irreversibly damaged. He went through eight years of medical treatment, but eventually died on April 5, 2017, due to the internal bleeding and complications caused by multiple surgeries.

Iranwire has interviewed Shamsi Khamse, Babak Asadi’s mother and Jahangir Asadi Shahir, Babak Asadi’s father about their 11-year ordeal.

The date is July 9, 2009. Four weeks after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner in Iran’s tenth presidential election, the streets of Tehran and other cities across the country are in tumult, filled with demonstrators who are outraged at the officially-announced result. In the capital, protesters and security forces line the streets from Enghelab Square to Azadi Square, all the way down Keshavarz Boulevard and into the surrounding roads.

Shamsi Khamse, together with her husband and their son, Babak, have travelled all the way from Karaj to Tehran to participate. She remembers the day as if it were yesterday.

“We were walking down Azadi Avenue toward Enghelab Square. A group of police officers and plainclothes officers were dragging a woman past Eskandari Junction. Babak and a few other young men approached the officers and intervened. They argued insistently until the officers let the woman go.

“The elated young men cried out, ‘Allahu Akbar, God is great!’. Those were the only words my son uttereed aloud at this peaceful rally. We walked away, and Babak was separated from us.

“Suddenly a plainclothes officer with a gun appeared and started beating Babak. His father and I tried to stop the officer but he hit us as well. He beat Babak on the side and on the stomach with the stock of his gun.”

The pair, as Shamsi remembers it, then lost sight of Babak in the crowd. They searched for him frantically. Presently, someone asked: “Are you looking for the guy with the long hair?”

The pair were told that a passing driver had seen Babak being assaulted by the officer, and let him into his car to get away from the scene. Shamsi and her husband headed toward the north end of the street, where they found Babak leaning against a wall, clutching his side and moaning in pain, his forehead sweaty. They decided to return to Karaj and take him to hospital.

“We took him Karaj Imam Khomeini Hospital,” Shams says. “They did a sonography but didn’t find any problems. Two days later he went to his language class, but then his friends brought him back home. He couldn’t walk. Next, we took him to Alborz Hospital. They did another sonography, and told us it was a miracle he was still alive.  His spleen was torn. They took him to the operating room.”

This was the first of a litany of surgeries that Babak would undergo over the next eight years. A full 12 months later, doctors discovered his intestine was also damaged in the attack.

“Doctors had been focused on the spleen,” Jahangir Asidi Shahir, Babak’s father, continues, “and didn’t notice the problem with the intestine. They then operated his intestine four times. He had to have a colostomy. It was hard to deal with; Babak was in a lot of pain. During the holidays in March 2017 we travelled to Isafan, but Babak was restless and suffering. We returned to Tehran as a matter of urgency and I took him to Treata Hospital.”

Doctors identified a new injury in Babak’s pancreas. They advised he undergo surgery at once. By now, Babak had an internal infection because of all the invasive procedures, but was nonetheless taken once again into the operating theater. From there, he was abruptly transferred to the Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital for an angiography.

Babak died on April 6, 2017, due to internal bleeding and complications from multiple surgeries.

Remembering the day his son was brutally beaten on July 9, 2009, Jahangir Asadi says: “I witnessed many young people being beaten on the streets that day. I even said to one of the officers, very politely, that we didn’t have a revolution in order to see protesters people being beaten.

“What our youth is asking for is not much. They want welfare and freedom. You can’t stop the changes happening in the minds of the new generation. This generation was born and grew up during and after the revolution. The response to their requests should be a conversation: not batons, not clashes, not imprisonment.”

Jahangir Asadi says his son was not interested in politics. Rather, Babak was protesting against the existing conditions in Iran. “I was at the rally along with my son. He was just walking in silence. He had just been taught not to stand by when a woman is being insulted or harmed. That was it.”

When they took him to hospital, Babak’s parents bitterly recall, the medical staff asked if he had been in a fight. “We told them ‘No, our son is a calm person, he doesn’t get into fights,’” says Jahangir.

“If only they had found out what was wrong on that first night. The sonography section was closed, so we returned home, with Babak in pain and in a cold sweat. We thought it was expected, because of the bruising, and he would be feeling better soon. Just a few days later we learned that he had four liters of blood in his stomach.”

Babak Asadi, his father says, was a gregarious, kind, and altruistic young man, who socialized and was kind to others in public, up to and including helping the poor. “Sometimes I feel my child had a mission in this world,” he says. “He completed his mission, and then he left.”