Nika Shahkarami: Iran arrests eight after the death of a teenage protester



CNN

Iranian media said, on Tuesday, that Iranian security forces had arrested eight people in connection with the death of a 16-year-old girl, Nika Shahkarami, in Tehran last month.

Members of her family told BBC Persian that her whereabouts were unknown for 10 days before they found her body in a morgue in the capital.

Her aunt, Atash Shah Karami, told BBC Persian in an interview on Friday that her niece left her home on September 20 around 5pm local time, and that she had been in touch with her until 7pm.

The aunt said that Shah Karami’s friend told her that the girl had posted a story on Instagram showing her burning her hijab, and that Shah Karami had told her that security agents were following her.

After that, the family lost contact with Shahkarem, the aunt told BBC Persian. The family found her 10 days later in the morgue of a capital detention center.

“When we went to get to know her, they didn’t let us see her body, only her face for a few seconds,” Atash Shahkarami told BBC Persian.

The pro-state Tasnim news agency said Shah Karami was found dead on September 21 in the backyard of a house in Tehran. Tasnim said police saw surveillance footage of Shahkarem entering a nearby building and it was still not clear how she died. Tasnim said there was “no evidence” of allegations by “foreign media” that the young man was killed by the police.

On Wednesday, the semi-official Fars News Agency published television footage that it claimed showed the last moments of Shah Karami’s life.

The video clip, which the agency said it obtained from police and judicial authorities, shows a person walking down an alley, entering a house and removing his face mask as he walks through the door. The person cannot be immediately identified.

The timecode for the video indicates that it was filmed after 12 a.m. local time; Lights in the entrance to a neighboring house and shadows in the street indicate that the video was recorded at night.

“This is the last video of Nika Shahkarami, 7 hours before her body was discovered,” Fars News said, claiming it shows the girl going to a semi-finished house near her aunt’s alley while talking on her mobile phone.

Tasnim reported that the eight people arrested were workers in the building where Shah Karami allegedly entered.

The Public Prosecutor of Tehran, Ali Salehi, said that a judicial criminal case has been filed, and he expressed his condolences to the family of Shah Karami, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency of Iran.

CNN has reached out to the family for comment.

Shah Karami’s death comes as nationwide protests swept Iran in the wake of the death in September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died after being detained by the country’s morality police over her appearance.

Girls and women across the country protested on school and university campuses and on the streets. Videos on social media show Iranian women and girls chanting “Death to the Dictator” and being seen taking off the mandatory headscarf, known as the hijab, in protest.

Anti-regime demonstrations also took hold The power bases of the Islamic Republic, including the holy Shiite cities of Mashhad and Qom. Ethnic minorities – notably the Kurds in the north and northwest, and Baluchis in the southeast – also staged protests, and suffered the most apparently brutal repression, with dozens reportedly killed.

A source familiar with the planned movement told CNN that the fierce crackdown on protesters by the Iranian authorities has drawn the attention of the United States, which is expected to issue new sanctions this week against law enforcement officials directly involved.

President Joe Biden, who has moved quickly to throw his support behind the protesters, issued a purposely vague statement Monday, promising additional costs “for the perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters.” Those costs are expected in the form of additional penalties this week, a source told CNN, with more measures likely to follow.

On Wednesday, state and other media outlets released videos of pro-government protesters on the streets of Tehran – many of them women – waving flags and carrying banners in support of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

“The hijab was our enemies’ excuse to destroy our unity, while we all lived together with different beliefs and that was not a problem,” school teacher Fatima Shahvilati, who was present at the meeting, told AFP.

The day before, CNN had seen girls from a vocational high school in Tehran protesting on a street near their school. They were heard chanting “Women, life, freedom” and “Dignified Iranian support” as well as “Death to the dictator” – a popular chant heard amid demonstrations across the country over the past days.

In a tribute to her niece posted on Instagram, Atash Shahkarami wrote: “I hope thousands and thousands of brave people are born out of the death of brave people!

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