Two years after the Islamic Republic brutally cracked down on peaceful protests in November 2019, killing more than 1500 people, according to Reuters, the families of the victims are now facing pressure from the regime to stop speaking out about the death of their loved ones.
Mother of Amirhossein Zarezadeh, a 19 year old boy who was killed in November, reported how 50 security agents turned up at an event held on Nov. 18, to commemorate her son’s death. She said she would not be intimidated to keep silent.
“I will write everything on a banner,” she said during a livestream on Instagram. “I will write that Khamenei is responsible for the murder of our children.”
During the livestream, she said the security forces followed the family’s car after the event.
There was also a show of heavy presence of police and security forces in another mourning ceremony held on November 18 in Malat village, in the Gilan province in north of Iran, for Pejman Gholipour, an 18 year old boy killed by five bullets. In a video of the event, Mahboubeh Ramazani, mother of Pejman, cries on her son’s grave: “God, they say heaven shakes when a mother cries. I have been crying for two years. Why have you forsaken me?”
Many mourners showed up at the event despite the heavy police presence, according to the person who recorded this video.
“They arrested people and confiscated phones,” he said. “They closed the roads in and out of the village. Agents were present in numbers and no one dared to record. I sent this video to a family member as soon as I recorded it in case an agent forced me to delete it, which was actually what happened. I later recovered it from my family.”
Mahboubeh and her family were temporarily detained by the security forces. Although they were later released, their cell phones were confiscated.
Mahnaz Karimi, mother of Vahid Damvar who was killed by a bullet in the back of his neck, said that an agent was posted in front of their house a week before the anniversary of his son’s death. The security agents secretly took down a large photograph of Vahid that was hung like a banner from the side of the house when the family was not at home, accessing their roof by going through their neighbor’s house.
“They don’t want us to even hang their pictures. They are afraid of the dead,” Karimi said in a livestream on Instagram with Masih Alinehjad. On the day of the anniversary, the security agents video recorded those present at her son’s grave site, to intimidate the attendees. The agents also frisked Karimi and other members of her family and confiscated their cell phones to stop them from recording the ceremony.
Morteza Damvar, father of Vahid Damvar, says the security agents took away banners hung from their house
Since 2019, a group of more than 20 mothers, whose children were killed in the protests of November 2019, have found each other. Initially they were “Mourning Mothers” who found comfort and solace in each other but now they are “Mothers for Justice” who support each other and wear a dark blue ribbon around their wrist as a symbol of their demand for justice.
Sakineh Ahmadi, mother of Ebrahim Ketabdar who was shot dead in front of his store, said the security agents forcefully cut the blue ribbon from her wrist. Mahboubeh Ramazani and Mahnaz Karimi have also reported the same harassment by the security agents. One agent told Karimi that he will put the ribbon in her file as evidence of her “crime”.
“I am not afraid of prison. I am not afraid of death,” she responded.
Islamic Republic has banned families from talking to the media based outside the country. Those who do, face arrest and prison. Manouchehr Bakhtiari, father of Pouya Bakhtiari, Mohsen Ghanavati, brother of Mohammad Hossein Ghanavati, Badrieh Hamidavi, mother of Ali Tamimi are all in prison for this “crime.” Other families were told if they give interviews to the media outside Iran “their other children might die in an accident or another incident.”
By Elnaz Sarbar
Elnaz Sarbar is a women’s rights activist based in California