Wednesday , 29 November 2023

Pedram Azarnoosh: A Slain and Immortal Giant of the Protests

Iranwire – He was 18 years old and standing tall at nearly seven feet – more than two meters. A bullet pierced his heart after he rescued a protesting woman.


Revered by friends and family as a modern-day warrior, his heart brimmed with profound concern for underprivileged families in his city. And much like the Iranian football legend Ali Daei, the hero whom he admired, Pedram Azarnoosh harbored aspirations of lifting his city’s destitute populace towards a better life.

But the pages of his story took a fateful turn on September 22, 2022, amid the nationwide protests that swept through the city of Dehdasht in Iran’s southwestern Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province. Azarnoosh was on the street that day alongside other protesters and, displaying a courage that defied his age, helped other demonstrators find their way safely home as the protests unravelled.

But it was his audacious act of rescuing a young woman caught by security forces that has now captured the imagination of Iranians and caused Azarnoosh to be hailed as a hero.

And then a single bullet, fired from the rooftop of the local governor’s office, shot by a government sniper’s rifle, found its mark. Azarnoosh was shot through the heart and killed. 

He Wanted to Be Like Ali Daei

Pedram Azarnoosh had a robust physique and excelled in various sports, including karate, boxing and football.

A person close to the Azarnoosh family told IranWire that he was seen by many not just as an athlete, but also a hero, due to his profound concern for others and particularly the disadvantaged. 

“He exhibited humility and an unparalleled work ethic. He consistently expressed his admiration for Ali Daei, regarding him as a role model,” the source said.

One day, when his family had organized a barbecue at home, Azarnoosh mentioned that he could smell the fragrance of the food across the neighborhood. 

He said to his relatives, “Why did you prepare a barbecue when the neighbors next door cannot afford it?” 

“It’s not that people are praising him only now because to his untimely death. Before this, he was admired for his exceptional compassion and heroic spirit,” the source said.

A Smile Adorned His Face

On the night of September 22, a relative arrived from Yasouj to visit the Azarnoosh family. 

In a request to his father, Azarnoosh had said, “Dad, lend me your card, I need to head into the city.” His father responded by handing over his bank card along with an instruction to buy two prescriptions from the pharmacy.

It was this bank card that lay in Azarnoosh’s pocket when the bullet pierced his heart. 

The city was in turmoil during those weeks, overcrowded and rife with conflict. Dozens of people were often left injured after street protests. On September 22, Azarnoosh helped the wounded amid the chaos. He helped injured protesters get into safe cars and asked the drivers to take them home. Azarnoosh must have towered above most of the crowd, at over two meters, commanding attention and projecting strength.

A gunshot rang out across the chaos and the crowd scattered. The voice of a young woman could be heard: “Help me!”

Despite the restraint of three people trying to hold him back, he paid no heed, broke free and said, “How can I allow another girl to suffer the same fate as Mahsa?”

Azarnoosh moved toward the security forces who were trying to arrest the girl, and in the process, confronted six officers who were brutalizing her. He succeeded in freeing her from their grasp.

Examination of his remains showed that Azarnoosh was shot from above. The bullet entered the top of his neck, finding his heart, before exiting the body lower down. When Azarnoosh’s father, Faizullah Azarnoosh, heard there had been a shooting in the city, he rushed out, wearing just his pyjamas and slippers.

The elder Azarnoosh had been gravely wounded himself during the Iran-Iraq War and was left with lasting physical ailments – nevertheless he made it to Dehdasht Hospital with astonishing speed. A grim sight met him outside the emergency entrance: a shrouded body surrounded by a gathering of mourners. 

The tall body, that of a teenager, protruded beyond the cover by “40 or 50 cm.” The sight left the elder Azarnoosh with the grim realization that his beloved son had perished.

Faizullah Azarnoosh collapsed when he saw his son’s lifeless body. He remained in that state until the following day when he was led to the cemetery for the burial of his son.

Dehdasht Stands with the Azarnoosh Family

A year after the loss of Pedram Azarnoosh, his father has extended an appeal to the people of Iran. 

On the eve of the commemoration of the death of both Mahsa Amini’s and his own son’s, Faizullah has invited people to gather at Pedram’s resting place and to pay respects to this “martyr of the path to freedom.”

The request was not without complexity. Security forces of the Islamic Republic have kept Pedram Azarnoosh’s family under a tight leash since his death last year. For an extended period, they applied pressure upon the family, coercing them to accept a narrative that depicted the death as a result of actions by “hypocrites,” calling him a “martyr of the Islamic Republic.”

The term “hypocrites” is used by the Islamic Republic to suppress and eliminate members of the People’s Mujahideen Organization. 

But the source close to the Azarnoosh family told IranWire that, “Instead, Mr. Faizullah said that his son had laid down his life for freedom, asserting that the government was his son’s murderer. He demanded justice, reparations, and accountability.” 

According to the source, Faizullah Azarnoosh has been summoned to security agencies at least 10 times within this past year. He has been taken to various locations outside the city, even to his son’s grave, in attempts to “persuade him to relinquish his son’s cause.” He has refused.

But intensity of the pressure on the family has been overwhelming – so much so that when Faizullah travels to other cities for personal matters several individuals accompany him as a protective measure.

And yet the Azarnoosh family remains undeterred in their pursuit of justice for their departed son.