Iranian teenage protester’s death sparks global outcry

Iranian teenage protester’s death sparks global outcry Iranian teenage protester’s death sparks global outcry, alleged threats to family from regime Nika Shakarami disappeared while attending a protest against the Iranian regime. ABC NEWS | By Somayeh Malekian | October 7, 2022 LONDON — The death of 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, who went missing after attending protests in Tehran last month, has further energized the nationwide demonstrations in Iran, even as her mother tells news outlets their family is being threatened by Iranian security forces to change their story about the incident. The protests erupted after the mysterious death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died Sept. 16 while in custody of the morality police, after she was reportedly arrested for not wearing a hijab properly. The demonstrations have turned into a movement, with many calling for an end to the Iranian regime. Many accounts on social media report an unprecedented number of teenagers participating in the protests. “Our teenagers laugh at these [Iranian officials],” Mojgan Ilanlou, an Iranian documentary filmmaker, told ABC News. Ilanlou says she has been on the streets most of the days of the protest witnessing a “fearless” young generation. Ilanlou says this generation doesn’t care about Iran’s leaders because the leaders have “turned themselves into jokes” with so many “shallow” decisions and statements. She says, “Who would be afraid of someone that they laugh at for a long time?” Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the U.S. and Israel for the unrest, calling Amini’s death “a bitter one” and urging people to wait for the investigation into her death to finish. On the day she disappeared, Nika had posted stories on her Instagram account inviting her friends to join the protests, her mother, Nasrin Shakarami, said in an interview with Iran International TV on Thursday. That’s how she learned her daughter had gone to the protests. In her last message to a friend on Sept. 20, Nika said that she was being chased by security forces, her aunt told BBC Persian. At some point, Nika stopped responding to the calls and her phone shut off, according to her family. The next morning, her family says they began searching prisons, police stations, and detention centers. “No one would respond properly. It was a mess. And some of the parents were beaten. They also were trying to understand if their children were in prison,” Nika’s mother told Iran International. Eight days after Nika went missing, the police called her family saying a body matched Nika’s features, her aunt told BBC Persian. After the family received her body, they realized the reported date of her death was the day she went missing, her mother told Iran International. She was not told why the body had been kept away from the family when she had her ID with her or why her Instagram and Telegram accounts were deleted the same night. Her mother said in the interview with Iran International that security forces tried to seize Nika’s body when they took her to their village to be buried. She said that local officials even asked her not to bury Nika in the village. “I asked them not to oppress me with this one. I asked them to let me bury my daughter where I want,” she said she told the local officials. Later that night, security forces stole Nika’s body from the morgue and buried her in a village several miles west of where Nika’s family wanted to bury her, she told Iran International. Nika’s uncle was arrested for objecting to the theft of the body and other relatives are wanted by police for objecting as well, she said in the interview. The family couldn’t retrieve the body again. Three days prior to that, Nika’s aunt had shared details of the family’s search for the teenager in an interview with BBC Persian listing the discrepancies they noticed in officials’ accounts regarding Nika’s case. The aunt was arrested in a raid on her house two days after the interview, BBC Persian reported. She then appeared on a program on state TV that advocates say is known for allegedly forcing confessions, saying that Nika was not killed in the protests and that she died after falling from the roof of a building. In a video aired by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe, Nika’s mother did not approve of her sister’s account on state TV. Nasrin Shakarami said her sister had made comments under pressure from security forces. “They have put words in her mouth and forced her to make confessions,” she said in the radio interview. Nasrin Shakarami said in the video that she herself received several threats that she would face trouble if she does not “confess” the “scenario” that the regime wants everyone to believe about Nika’s death. An official with Tehran’s homicide office, Mohammad Shahriyari, said investigations by the department show Nika was not killed in the protests, according to the Iran judiciary’s news agency Mizan on Wednesday. “No bullet marks were found in the body of the deceased and the evidence shows that the death was caused by a person being thrown [from the building].” However, Nasrin Shakarami told Radio Farda that Nika’s death certificate attributes “repeated blows by a blunt object” as the reason for death. The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a U.S.-based nonprofit, condemned the Islamic Republic for using the “ragged inhuman scenario of forced confessions” to cover its “crimes and oppression.” In a tweet Thursday, the group said that such confessions are “historical documents of unforgettable crimes.” The Biden administration announced sanctions Thursday against several senior Iranian officials for the violent crackdown on protesters. The State Department Friday did not outline additional measures, but condemned the deaths that have resulted amid the crackdown. “This cruel and ongoing suppression of protestors just shows that the regime — it clearly fears its people,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said. “We’re going to continue to coordinate with our allies and partners and respond to Iran’s crackdown, as well as frankly, its state sponsored violence against women that we’re seeing take place all across the country.” Commenting on the presence of teenagers like Nika in the protests, Ilanlou told ABC News that she had initially advised some teenagers on the street to go home while the “adults would take care” of the protests. However, their bravery encouraged her to keep participating in the protests. “When I witness their courage, I start to think why I should be scared,” Ilanlou said. She said this generation wants “to be in their own country and live with their own lifestyle.” Nika would’ve turned 17 on Tuesday, one day after her burial.