Family of Slain Bystander Warned: “We Will Dig Up the Body and Take It Away If You Speak to the Media”
Iran’s security officials have warned the family of Erfan Faeghi, a 21-year-old who died from a bullet wound to the heart on November 17 in south Tehran when he unintentionally drove near a street protest, that if they speak to the media, his body would be exhumed and moved to another location, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
The warnings to the families by officials regarding speaking to the media reflects the intense and brutal state repression that has surrounded the protests, which broke out across Iran on Nov 16 after the government announced a steep gas price hike.
Authorities shut down the internet, imposed a news blackout, and attacked unarmed protestors with live ammunition, killing hundreds of protestors—as well bystanders who happened to be near the protests.
“Erfan was a welder. That’s how he supported his family. He was coming back from work. He wasn’t part of the protests. He was in a car with his brother and friends,” a relative told CHRI on condition of anonymity.
“When they got to the Chahardangeh neighborhood, they noticed there were disturbances. It was 8:45 at night. They stepped out of the car to see what’s going on and just at that moment, a bullet went through Erfan’s heart. Before he died he told his 12-year-old brother to take care of their mother.
“His friends quickly put him inside the car and took him to a hospital. But they are very sorry they did that because the hospital turned the body over to the security forces.”
There have been consistent reports that the authorities have been refusing to release the bodies to families, or demanding payment for the release of the bodies to the families.
The family eventually succeeded in getting his body from the Medical Examiner’s Office on November 21, the source added.
“We were told that he has to be buried in Beheshte Zahra Cemetery and no one should attend the funeral. His mother was very anxious and finally, through some influential friends, the body was handed over and the burial took place at Imamzadeh Zayd Cemetery in west Tehran, near the family residence.”
The source continued: “He was buried under intense security with lots of special guards all around us. There were even some female police officers. Only close relatives were allowed to be there. They didn’t allow us to take pictures or video tape the ceremony. Erfan’s friends had filmed the moment he was hit by a bullet but they were forced to delete it under pressure.”
At first the authorities were demanding 50 million tomans ($11,860 USD) to deliver the slain young man’s body.
“In the end, they didn’t take any money from us but we had to sign a pledge not to inform the public. We were told that if we spoke to the media, they would dig up his body and take it away. This really scared the family.”