On this Eve of the third anniversary of 2009 elections, families of the victims of post-election protests who have filed claims against authorities demanding accountability and are disappointed at futility of their struggle, speak to us of their plight.
During the riots that broke out in the aftermath of June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, many protesters lost their lives by getting shot at point blank, or severely beaten, inhaling tear gas, getting pushed off bridges or buildings, or getting run over by security forces’ trucks. Many others were arrested and killed in detention as a result of fatal beatings and lack of medical attention; according to their families and even official records released by the judiciary and armed forces. The coroner’s reports released to the victims’ families, confirm the victims’ death by firearms.
To date Fifty-Five families have reported the death of a close relative during the post-election riots, in various media interviews.
Masoumeh Chegini, wife of Mahram Chegini, one of the protesters shot to death in June 2009 demonstrations, said in an exclusive interview that despite the coroner’s reports confirming the fatal gun shot and even officially declaring him a Martyr, the authorities never identified my husband’s assailant. “We have no hopes for my husband’s case moving any further, as we have been ordered to accept the “Dieyeh”, the blood money compensation; which implies the closure of the case. “ Mrs. Chegini adds, “they essentially erase the bitter memory of my husband’s death as the officials hold no value for our loved ones’ lives and assume that by paying us the chapter is closed. Where in fact, for us the case will never close until we find out who were these parties who could freely roam the streets and randomly shoot and kill the children of this country and by extension destroy our lives, and where are they hiding now.”
Countless graphic videos of killing of the protesters broadcasted on you-tube in June 2009, namely the scene of Neda Agha Soltan’s death by gunfire, which rapidly spread across the Internet and quickly made Neda a well-known name in international media outlets.
There were similar videos in circulation around the same time, showing Basij members shooting into the crowd, from atop their stations.
Ladan Mostafaie, wife of Ali Hasanpour, one of the victims of such shootings on June 15, said in an interview that she had filed a claim against the members of one such Basij station, which resulted in transferring her case to the military court system. “Eight Basij members who were on duty that day at the said station were summoned to court and their information were collected, however, none of them have thus far been identified as a ‘killer’.” She adds, in the past three years I have visited the military court house over two hundred times and five judges who have reviewed the case, have unanimously vouched for my husband’s innocence.” Ali Hasan-Pour was the father of two young children. He was shot in the head during the protests on June 15, 2009 and his corps was delivered to his family after 105 days.
Victims of June
Maysam Ebadi was the first Iranian civilian who according to his family, was killed during the protests on June 13, only one day after the elections. It wasn’t until the afternoon of June 15 that the state television reported seven among the protesters dead and twenty-nine injured. This was the first official reporting of death during the post-election protests.
According to critics, the number of deaths were much higher than those reported by the Islamic Republic officials and that several of the twenty nine injured victims died later in hospitals, the news of which was announced at later much dates when their families decided to break their silence.
Among them were Kianoush Asaa; Ramin Ramezani; Mostafa Ghanian; Mahram Chegini; Ahmad Naiem-Abadi; Davood Sadri; Ali Hasan-Pour; Alireza Eftekhari; Hossein Akhtar-Zand; Hesaam Hanifeh and Sohrab A’raabi, to name a few who were killed during June 15 protests.
However, the killings did not stop on June 15. Just as the street protests continued on, do did the killing of protesters.
Following the June 19 Friday Prayer speech during which the Supreme Leader warned the reformist politicians that if they choose to break the laws, they will be held responsible for the bloodshed and violence and chaos; the protesters who showed up the next day were greeted violently and shot or beaten to death.
Among those killed on June 20 2009, were Masoud Khosravi; Ali Fathalian; Hamid Hossein Baik-Araghi; Neda Agha-Soltan; Fatemeh Semsar-Pour; Ashkan Sohrabi; Behzad Mohajer; Kaveh Sabzali-pour; Abbas Disnad; Masoud Hashem Zadeh and Saeed Abbasifar Golchini, whose families have confirmed their deaths during that day’s protests.
Multiple major and notable protests followed those in June 2009, in later days of that year and beyond; namely the Ghods Day, Ashoura Day, 18 Tir (July 5), 25 Bahman (Feb 14) and Chaharshanbe Souri (Fire Festival) of 2010. Many among the protesters of these days were also arrested and killed in the infamous Kahrizak Prison.
Then Came the Lawsuits
Several of the election-victims’ families began writing letters to various official agencies including the office of the Supreme Leader, the office the President and the Head of the Judiciary. Later they moved on to filing official cases in various courts, demanding identification and trial of the killers.
Among the post-election protest victims’ cases to which the judicial system responded by ordering investigations into, was that of the prisoners at Kahrizak detention center.
Such cases as Amir Javadifar, Mohammad Kamrani and Mohsen Rouholamini, the prisoners who were killed under torture at Kahrizak, were unofficially reviewed at several courts. The 4th victim of Kahrizak was Ramin Aghazadeh Ghahremani who died shortly after his release, as a result of the extensive injuries sustained while tortured in detention. Again no one was held responsible for his death.
The court eventually charged two of Kahrizak prison officials with criminal activity and ordered a sentence of “Ghesaas” (an eye for an eye) for them.However, the families of their victims chose to pass on the given sentence and instead demanded the trial of the “Real” culprits in the murder of their children.A wish that was never fulfilled.
Saeed Mortazavi (former prosecutor) was number one in the long line of those accused in this class action case. Although he was found guilty and charged with being an Accomplice to Homicide at Kahrizak, and removed from his position as prosecutor; he has since been given two key positions in Ahmadinejad’s administration.
Another case that came under scrutiny was that of Ghlamhossein Kabiri who was slain during June 20 rallies and later dubbed by regime officials as a “Basij member”. Someone was initially found guilty and sentenced to death; however in 2011 the man charged with the murder was exonerated at branch 71 of Tehran’s Criminal Court and set free.
A number of families of election protest victims, disappointed with the internal judicial process, turned to international organizations for help. Subsequently upon becoming the Special Iran Human Rights Rapporteur – as chosen by UNHRC – Dr. Ahmed Shaheed received several requests from multiple families of victims to help them in their efforts to identify the killers of their children.
In his first report on human rights condition in Iran, released in March 2011, Ahmed Shaheed named five of the protest victims such as Sohrab A’raabi, Neda Agha Soltan, Ali Hasanpour, Mostafa Karim Baigi and Massoud Hashemzadeh requesting from the Islamic Republic officials to conduct an investigation into their deaths.
Silencing the Families
The families of the victims were experiencing a great deal of pressure from the Intelligence apparatus for pursuing the cases of their murdered loved ones. A number of them ended up arrested and in jail as a result of their persistence.Many others were summoned to various Security organizations and warned against holding any form of public funeral or tribute for the victims. Several others were even ordered to remove the head stone from the victim’s grave, if it contained the word “Martyr” in the inscription.
“These pressures are exerted in order to systematically persuade the families to stop pursuing the cases of their murdered children.” Says Ladan Mostafaie.
The pressure on the victim’s families began from the very early days of the protests. The news of the arrest of family members of better-known victims such as Sohrab A’raabi and Neda Agha Soltan immediately spread across the media, while the lesser-known families endured even greater pressure. Mehdi Remezani, father of Ramin Ramezani, spent months behind bars and was finally released in January 2010 after posting $200,000 bail. He was recently sentenced again to another three years in prison.
Family members of yet another election victim, Kianoush Asaa have been incarcerated on numerous occasions. His two brothers Kamran and Aziz, as well as several others of his family members have repeatedly been arrested in Kermanshah and released after posting bail.
Ashkan Sohrabi’s father was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry on the first anniversary of his son’s death and prevented from holding a memorial ceremony for his son. Mohammad Mokhtari’s father, Ismail Mokhtari had exact same experience. Behnood Ramezani’s parents were also among families last March who were arrested on the anniversary of their son’s death and released after a bail of $150,000.
Demolition of Tombstones
Another issue not meeting the approval of security forces is the labeling of the election victims as “Martyrs”. Several of the victims of post-election riots, such as Hamid Kabiri, Mohammad Hossein Fayz Saneh Zhaleh, Kaveh Sabzalipour, Hossein Baig Araghi, Davood Sadri and Maysam Ebadi were dubbed as “Basiji” by regime supporters in an effort to claim their notoriety. Their families consequently contacted the press to publicly denounce the claim and the lies fed to the public by the state media.
“They called us on our private telephone line to order us to actually remove and change my son’s grave stone, since the inscription included the word “Martyr”.” Syas Shahnaz Karim Baigi, Mostafa Karim Baigi’s mother. She adds, we recently found his head stone broken into pieces. “I don’t know who would do such a thing. But if “they” are hoping to silence us, they are very wrong. These acts will only fuel the fury of the families.”
Mostafa Karim Baigi was the 26-year-old man killed by gunfire on Ashura Day in 2009. His family’s lawsuit filed with Iran’s judiciary remains unanswered to date.
According to Sorkh-Sabz website, Behnoud Ramezani’s family was also recently ordered to change their son’s tombstone.
Saeed Abbasi’s grave is another one recently demolished by unknown individuals. His family did choose to go silent after the incidence.
Conflicting Reports on Victims
After three years, there is still no clear data as to the exact number of post-election victims. To this day, the Islamic Republic officials refuse to accept any responsibility for the post-election murders and continue to produce conflicting reports about the subject.
A special investigative committee was formed in the early days of post election period, spearheaded by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, the two main opposition leaders and presidential candidates. The committee obtained and published in September 2009, the names and information of 72 individuals who were killed during post-election protests. Following the publication of the list of names, in the afternoon of September 6, 2009 Intelligence forces stormed the committee’s head quarters, confiscated all files and documents and arrested the staff. Among them, Morteza Alviri and Alireza Hosseini Beheshti.
The state owned Radio Television Seda-va-Sima has repeatedly denounced the validity of the list of 72 names and continued reporting conflicting related information ever since.
Sepaah (IRGC) Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari had just days prior to the publication of the list of names, had announced that 20 of Basij and Revolutionary force personnel but only 9 of the opposition had been killed during the protests.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his 8th visit to the United States in fall of 2011 said in an interview that it was but a small group of protesters who were killed during the chaos of destroying buildings and setting cars on fire. He added, “Only about 33 people were killed during the post-election riots, 2/3 of which were security and police officers and ordinary pro-regime citizens.”
The head of Judiciary, Sadegh Larijani on the other hand, even after two years, claimed there was only ONE person killed during the protests. He was met with a wave of protests from families of the victims.
All these conflicting opinions are published at a time when 55 families of protest victims have come forth to tell the world the truth, while there are many others who are still sitting in silence.
Amir Javadifar -Mohammad Kamrani – Mohsen Rouholamini – Ramin Aghazadeh Ghahremani – Ramin Pourandarjani – Ahmad Nejati Kargar – Maysam Ebadi – Ali Hasanpour – Sohrab A’raabi – Ahmad Haiemabadi – Mahram Chegini – Ramin Ramezani – Davood Sadri – Soroor Boroumand – Fatemeh Rajabpour – Hesaam Hanifeh – Hossein Akhtarzand – Kianoush Assa – Mahmoud Raeesi Najafi – Mostafa Ghanian – Lotfali Yousefian – Amir Hossein Toofanpour – Bahman Jenaie – Alireza Eftekhari – Saeed Abbasi – Seyed Elyas Mirjafari – Naser Amirnejad – Ashkan Sohrabi – Neda Agha Soltan – Masoud Khosravi Doostmohammd – Kaveh Sabzalipour – Massoud Hasheminajad – Abbas Disnad – Yaghoub Beravayeh – Ali Fathalian – Behzad Mohajer – Mohammad Javad Parnadakh – Mostafa Kiarostami – Fatemeh Semsarpour – Hamid Hossein Baig Araghi – Mohammd Hossein Fayz – Hossein Gholam Kabiti – Amir Yousefzadeh – Seydali Mousavi – Mostafa Karimbaigi – Shabnam Sohrabi – Shahram Farajzadeh – Mehdi Farhadirad – Amir Arshad Tajmir – Shahrokh Rahmani – Mohammad Ali Rasekhinia – Saneh Zhaleh – Mohammad Mokhtari – Behnood Ramezani
BBC : Masih Alinejad June 7, 2012