Cemetery Becomes Battleground as State Forces Detain Supporters of Slain Protester
The grandmother of Pouya Bakhtiari, a 27-year-old man who was gunned down at a street protest on November 16, 2019, said the family’s home in Karaj, west of Tehran, was surrounded by security forces to prevent them from visiting his grave on December 26, 2019, after calling for the date to be a national day of mourning.
His grandmother, Tahereh Shirpisheh, also told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that state agents violently detained people at the gravesite. Shirpisheh added that she had no information about the location or condition of relatives including both of Bakhtiari’s parents who’d been detained on December 23.
“They took away my daughter [Nahid Shirpisheh] and my son-in-law [Manouchehr Bakhtiari],” Shirpisheh said. “They took away my son, my grandson and my son-in-law’s brothers as well as my son-in-law’s 11-year-old nephew. They freed the 11-year-old child but not his father.”
“They took them blindfolded and put them in prison, but we don’t know where,” she added. “We can’t ask questions. Family members are too afraid to make inquiries. Everyone is being harassed.”
In an open letter published online on December 17, several mothers of people who’d been killed by state forces in Iran invited fellow citizens to observe a minute of silence on December 26 to demand justice.
On December 24, the state-funded Mehr News Agency, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported that Bakhtiari’s parents had been taken into custody “to prevent plotters from continuing to cause more deaths with the repeat of armed action against the people.”
A week earlier, his father Manouchehr Bakhtiari had posted a photo of himself with his late son on Instagram encouraging people to honor the memory of November’s victims of state violence on December 26.
Hours before his arrest, Manouchehr Bakhtiari told CHRI that during the span of one week he had twice been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry’s office in Karaj and to the prosecutor’s office on two other occasions where local authorities pressured him to call off a December 26th memorial service at Beheshte Sakineh Cemetery, where his son is buried.
On December 26, security forces stationed at the cemetery blocked family members from visiting Pouya Bakhtiari’s grave.
Video clips posted on social media networks show people at the cemetery chanting “death to the dictator,” “our pain is the people’s pain, join us,” “long live Iran” and “people didn’t die for the [supreme] leader to be praised.”
Following is a transcript of Tahereh Shirpisheh’s statements to CHRI.
They didn’t let us go to his grave. They harassed and insulted me a lot. I tried everything to go to my grandson’s grave. I even kissed the hand of one of the security guards. But they didn’t let me. I told them I’m Pouya’s grandmother. They said they can’t let me go because it would lead to trouble. They had closed off all the paths to Plot 26 [where Pouya is buried]. They beat up the people who were there and took away some of them.
I asked one of the security guards, ‘Why do you shoot at defenseless people and blow out their brains?’ He said, ‘If someone was robbing your house, you would shoot him, too.’ I said, ‘If the thief was not armed, at worst I would slap him. I wouldn’t shoot him with a gun…
My relatives who had gone to Beheshte Sakineh were all beaten with batons. The women, too. A helicopter flew over the cemetery. The security forces were everywhere like an army of ants. For every ordinary person, there were 10 security guards.
Three plainclothes security agents beat a skinny boy. A woman bled from being struck in the eye. She was put into a car and taken away. They filled two buses with people. They really harassed us.
When we went back to our house, we noticed that two blocks away my daughter’s house had been surrounded by security forces and several black cars and police vehicles had been parked on the road leading to their house…
For how long do these miserable, terrified forces want to bully the people? … All we want is justice for Pouya, nothing else. They can offer us the world, but it won’t be worth a nail on his finger. They want to pay blood money but thank God we have enough. Pouya had everything in life. He didn’t protest for money. He only wanted to make things right in our country.
Read this article in Persian.