“She Had a Right to Live” Nurse Killed by Bullet to the Heart Amid State Repression of Karaj Protests
Azar Mirzapour Zahabi, a 48-year-old nurse and mother of four, was killed by a bullet to the heart in the Golshahr district of Karaj on November 16, 2019, while Iranian authorities were repressing protests there, her sister told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Zahabi’s sister, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons, told CHRI that their family is well-known in the city and that state officials had offered condolences to them after saying Zahabi had been shot by “rioters.”
Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei repeatedly used the words “riot” and “rioter” to describe those who participated in the street demonstrations that exploded in dozens of cities throughout the country in November 2019 after a sudden fuel price hike.
According to Amnesty International, at least 304 people were killed in and around the protests between November 15-18, 2019. Thousands were also injured and arrested, including children as young as 15.
On December 4, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued an order declaring that all “ordinary citizens with no role in the recent protests and riots who died in the clashes” should be honored as “martyrs.”
“They declared my sister a martyr but even so, she had a right to live, didn’t she?” Zahabi’s sister told CHRI. “My sister had a lot of zest for life. She worked a lot of hours with passion to support her four children and live.”
Following is a partial transcript of the interview:
Around 5 p.m., my sister was going home from work when she saw cars in the middle of the street with their engines shut off. She started walking towards home and called and told her son that she would get there in two minutes. She said it was very turbulent outside. We never heard from her again.
The kids contacted me, and we went everywhere looking for her until we got to Kowsar Hospital where they told us a woman with her description had been brought there along with her purse. They told us to go to the Medical Examiner’s Office. I don’t know if she was still alive when she was brought to the hospital because the bullet had struck her heart.
We spent two or three days doing the legal work and then we got the body and buried my sister in our hometown in Khorramabad [in Lorestan Province] without any restrictions. A lot of people came to the funeral. We are also planning to have a ceremony on the 40th day of her death. My father and our family are well-known, and people have been… coming to our home [to offer condolences.]
Officials representing the governor-general, the supreme leader and the president’s cabinet came to our house to express sympathy. They said my sister had been killed by rioters. They asked about my sister and her kids to open an investigation into the killer…
They declared my sister a martyr but even so, she had a right to live, didn’t she? My sister had a lot of zest for life. She worked a lot of hours with passion to support her four children and live.
The officials didn’t mention blood money. I saw my sister’s body and made the identification. I don’t feel well. I have heart issues and I can’t go chasing paperwork. But my sister’s eldest daughter is 27 years old and she’s making inquiries about blood money… The siblings can decide what to do. I can’t speak on their behalf.
Read this article in Persian.