Brother of Killed Protester “Refused” Pressure to Absolve Iranian Government on State TV
“They wanted to hide their responsibility and blame the shootings on the people. I refused to do it.”
Iranian agents pressured at least one family member of Nasser Rezaei, a protester who died after being shot as state forces repressed the street demonstration he had joined in the city of Karaj on November 17, 2019, to make statements that would absolve the government of responsibility, his brother told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“They wanted to hide their responsibility and blame the shootings on the people,” Rezaei’s brother Mansour told CHRI. “I refused to do it.”
According to Mansour, Iranian authorities took multiple steps to protect themselves from being held accountable for the protester’s death, including:
- Pressuring Mansour to state publicly and on state TV that Nasser was shot by “rebels” rather than state forces
- Pressuring Mansour to falsely claim Nasser was a “passerby” and not a protester
- Blocking the Rezaei family from obtaining a death certificate
- Blocking the Rezaei family from holding a public funeral
- Confiscating Mansour’s phone for two weeks
- Removing Nasser’s cause of death from his gravestone
Dozens of family members of other protesters who were killed as state forces repressed widespread street protests throughout Iran between November-December 2019 have provided similar testimonies to CHRI.
According to Amnesty International, at least 304 people were killed in Iran between November 15-18, 2019, after protests in response to a sudden gasoline price hike erupted in dozens of cities throughout the country. Thousands were also injured and arrested, including children as young as 15.
Nasser, 35, had a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and owned a business that bought and sold cars. He lived with his wife of two years in the city’s Fardis district. Following is a transcript of his brother Mansour’s statements to CHRI:
On the day he was killed, I spoke to him on the phone around 5:45 p.m. I called him 15 minutes later because there were protests going on and I was worried. But someone else answered his phone and said Nasser had been shot.
We live [227 miles away] in Sanandaj [city in Kurdistan Province] and by the time we got to Karaj, it was midnight and we couldn’t go to the Ghaemi Hospital where my brother had been admitted. The street had been blocked off.
Around 7 in the morning we went to the hospital and were told that Nasser’s body had been taken to Behesht-e Sakineh Cemetery. When we got there, they told us to sign a pledge saying that [we agreed] he would be buried quickly the same day without a funeral.
We weren’t asked to pay anything when we took delivery of the body at 6 p.m. that day. We then went to Sanandaj and buried him that night in the Ghorveh district. There was no ceremony, no funeral. There were just members of the family and a few acquaintances who had heard the news.
We held a memorial service for him at a mosque in the presence of security agents who wanted to interview me [for the local state television station]. They wanted me to memorize and say things they had written on pieces of paper; things like Nasser was a passerby and had been shot by rebels. They wanted to hide their responsibility and blame the shootings on the people. I refused to do it.
They also asked us to file a complaint over his death, but we haven’t done it. They said they would declare him a martyr and pay blood money. But we didn’t accept anything.
My brother wasn’t a passerby. He was a protester who had taken part in the demonstration. When I spoke to him that day, he told me, ‘We have to take back our rights.’ He was not a member of any [political] organization. A lot of people have asked about who he had gone with to the protest. He didn’t go with anyone. He went on his own to protest the increase in the price of gasoline. He went and they answered him with a bullet—a bullet to his right eye.
The authorities are still bothering me. For instance, I had to take a test for a certificate, but they brought up some excuse and didn’t let me take the test. They said I was too old. I said, ‘If I’m too old, why did you let me register and take my money?’ When I showed them my entrance card for the test, they took it away and refused to answer me.
When I was visiting my parents in the hospital, security agents came and took my phone. They said they had to check it for security reasons. They returned it about two weeks later.
They didn’t let us put an epitaph on Nasser’s gravestone… We wanted to engrave a poem by Ahmad Shamloo. They told us not to, but we did it anyway. It was one of Nasser’s favorite poems [about fighting injustice] that he used to recite. Under the poem, we wrote he was killed by a bullet. The agents went and removed that part, but the poem stayed.
The authorities told us to go and file a complaint. They said they would declare Nasser a martyr and pay blood money… But who are we going to sue? They run the courts. They aren’t going to investigate anything… We can’t do anything about it. My father is 70 years old and my mother is 65. They can’t do anything either. The only thing I can do is inform the public, even though the media can’t help us either.”
Read this article in Persian.