Sunday , 3 December 2023

Blinding as a Weapon: “I’ve held on to those pellets as souvenirs”

Iranwire – The Delpasand family in Türkiye is on a quest for an ordinary life – a fundamental human right unjustly denied to them in their homeland.

The Delpasand family in Türkiye is on a quest for an ordinary life – a fundamental human right unjustly denied to them in their homeland

The family’s odyssey began on a fateful night, November 15, 2022, when their car passed into the crosshairs of security forces on a Rasht city street.

The streets of the central Golsar neighborhood were full of with people who had left their homes to join popular protests sparked by the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

Several times, the family tried to leave their car to join the demonstrators, only to be forced by the presence of security forces back into their vehicle.


Ali Delpasand, the father, sounded the car horn over and over again, a symbol of solidarity with the protestors. His daughter Respina and a family friend were in the back seat. Bahareh, Respina’s mother, was in the front.

In a hopeful moment, Bahareh stretched her hand out of the car window, and flash a v-sign as a symbol of victory.

But then, in an abrupt and shocking turn of events, their lives were shattered and they were left with severe head and facial injuries.

A riot squad, apparently unable to endure the relentless horns, fired shots that left Ali blinded and Bahareh wounded on her face.

Bahareh sat beside Ali in the front seat, and as the windows shattered, the sound of Respina’s screams reverberated in their ears.

Bahareh turned around to see her husband slumped behind the steering wheel, covered in blood, saturated in screams.

Protestors outside their car rallied around them and a compassionate stranger took the wheel. He moved the wounded Ali aside and drove the family to safety.

Respina, aged just nine years old at the time, was forced to witness the entire scene.

Despite medical treatment, after seven months the Delpasand family decided to give up everything to owned to travel to Türkiye and seek asylum.

All they had was each other – Ali and Bahareh who held on to Respina as they began their arduous. The traumatic experience has robbed Respina of her childhood in her home country.

A year has now passed since the tragic incident but the scars from that fateful shotgun remain.

Pellets still remain embedded in the faces of Ali and Bahareh and Ali has lost one of his eyes. Respina had to say goodbye to her school, her friends, her family, to travel to Türkiye with her parents.

Now in an exclusive interview with IranWire, the Delpasand family share their experiences from that fateful night and the journey that followed, sharing the pain, strength, hope and resilience of their story.

Respina’s voice came through the phone, passed back and forth between Ali and Bahareh, as they remembered the attack on their car.

The family also turns to the names of Kian Pirfalak and Mahmonir Molaei-rad, a nine-year-old boy killed in a similar incident and his mother who was left behind, as they share their experiences.

Ali and Bahareh repeatedly emphasized: “Just like what happened to Kian.”

What Ali shared, from the moment they were fired upon, mirrored the account his wife Bahareh told him.

Bahareh took the phone and began: “We were stuck in traffic, horns blaring all around us. At the same time, I said to Ali that [other] people say those who kill protesters are not true Iranians. But two people were on a motorcycle on the side of the street and were speaking in local dialect.”

“I told Ali that these are our people. I turned toward the side of our car. A young girl had her hands raised in a sign of victory, and I did the same,” she said in the IranWire interview.

“Then, everything became a blur. Suddenly, something like a sledgehammer struck my face, and blood was pouring out. I turned to Ali and saw his head had slumped. I thought he was dead,” she added.

Demonstrators had blocked access to the square in the Golsar neighborhood but one path remained open – the road where their car was situated.

Security forces had parked their motorcycles on the pavement. From a distance of three to four meters along that same pavement, the family’s vehicle was targeted by a shotgun blast, just as Bahareh had extended her hand out of the window as a symbol of victory.

Ali continued his account: “They targeted our car specifically, not the single-passenger vehicles. Why did they single out our family? Did they know us? Was it intentional?”

People quickly converged around the car. Protesters urged the family to leave the area to avoid the security forces.

Bahareh and Respina’s screams rang out and their faces were covered with blood. A protester jumped into the car and drove them home.

A Kia Pride car trailed them, carrying a few bearded young passengers who offered to transport Ali to the hospital, but Bahareh said no. The car left.

Bahareh entrusted Respina to a neighbor’s care and went looking for help for Ali in another vehicle.

Rasht hospitals and clinics transferred Ali and Bahareh to Farabi Hospital in Tehran. Out of concern for their safety, Bahareh covered her face in a hat, to shield it from potential security issues related to the pellets. But a hospital guard still advised them to leave due to the presence of security forces.

One pellet was lodged beneath Bahareh’s eye and with two more were embedded in her eyebrow. Had they struck just a few millimeters higher or lower she may have lost one of her eyes.

Bahareh recalled, “The hospital was inundated with eye injuries. There was a lady hit while peering out from her balcony. Another woman was shot in the leg and taken to a different hospital.”

She added: “My companion was Ali. One side of his face was grotesquely swollen, and his eye bulged out. They discarded his blood-soaked clothes right there. They also recommended removing the pellets from my face, but I wasn’t focused on myself.”

Over the course of 45 days, Ali underwent four surgeries. Two pellets had penetrated his eyeball, reaching the nerve. The doctors, however, said that the pellets could not be extracted.

Reflecting on his condition, Ali said, “They performed surgeries to mend the retina, but in the end, they informed me that I had lost my sight. The retina couldn’t be repaired. My injured eye is devoid of light. Complete darkness.”

Ali chuckles and added, “I’ve held on to those pellets as souvenirs, for now.”

He remained hospitalized in Tehran for nearly two months. Doctors later tried to remove the pellets from Bahareh’s and Ali’s heads and faces but they had become embedded in their bodies. Surgical intervention was necessary to extract them.

October marks Respina’s 10th birthday, and her name, which means autumn, carries a special significance.

Whenever Ali mentioned Respina’s age, he often repeated, “Kian’s age.”

During Bahareh’s retelling of the incident, she emphasized, “We were fortunate; the car windows were closed. Otherwise, the same tragedy that happened Kian might have happened to Respina.”