Mother disputes Iranian version and says teenager was beaten to death

Mother disputes Iranian version and says teenager was beaten to death
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Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The mother of a 16-year-old Iranian girl has denied official claims that her daughter fell to her death from a tall building and said the teen was beaten as part of the crackdown on anti-Hijab protests shaking the country been killed on the head.

Nasreen Shakarami also said authorities kept her daughter Nika’s death a secret for nine days and then removed the body from a morgue to bury it in a remote area against the family’s wishes. The grieving mother spoke Thursday in a video message to Radio Farda, the Persian-language arm of US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Nika Shakarami has become the latest icon in the protests, seen as the greatest threat to Iran’s ruling elites in years. Attempts by authorities in recent days to paint the teenager’s death as an accident may signal concern that the incident is fueling further anti-government anger.

The protests, which entered their fourth week on Saturday, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in vice custody. They had arrested Amini for alleged violations of the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

Young women often lead the protests, tearing off their headscarves and waving them defiantly as they call for the overthrow of the government.

The protests quickly spread to communities across Iran and were met with harsh government crackdowns, including beatings, arrests and killings of protesters, and internet disruption.

Human rights groups estimate that dozens of protesters have been killed in the past three weeks. On Thursday, London-based group Amnesty International released its findings on the deadliest incident to date in the city of Zahedan on March 27.30.

According to the report, Iranian security forces killed at least 66 people, including children, and injured hundreds after firing live ammunition at protesters, bystanders and worshipers in a violent crackdown that day. Iranian authorities have claimed that unnamed separatists were involved in the Zahedan violence. More than a dozen people have since been killed in the area, the report said.

Meanwhile, Nika Shakarami’s mother has resisted attempts by officials to paint her daughter’s death as an accident.

In her video message, she said the forensic report showed that Nika died from repeated blows to the head.

Nika’s body was intact, but some of her teeth, bones in her face and part of the back of her head were broken, she said. “The damage was to her head,” she said. “Her body was intact, arms and legs.”

Earlier this week, Iran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Ashtari, claimed the teenager walked up to a building “and fell from the upper floor at a time of gatherings.” He said that “falling from that height resulted in her death”.

Nasreen Shakarami said her daughter left her home in Tehran on the afternoon of 27/19 to join the anti-Hijab protests. She said she contacted Nika by phone several times over the next few hours, asking her to come home. They last spoke before midnight. “Then Nika’s cell phone was off after she and her friends had called the names of the emergency services on the run,” she said.

The next morning, the family searched for Nika at police stations and in prisons, but had no word on her whereabouts for nine days. Authorities finally turned over the body on the 10th day and the family drove to the city of Khoramabad for the funeral, she said. Authorities have repeatedly demanded that the body be taken, which is now being held at the Khoramabad morgue.

On the day of the scheduled funeral, the family learned that the body had been torn from the morgue and taken to a remote village for burial under tight security, Nasreen Shakarami said.

Since the confirmation of her death, Nika has become another icon of the protests alongside Amini. A photo of Nika wearing a black t-shirt and sporting a stylish two-tone bob haircut and eyeliner has been widely shared on social media.

Authorities arrested Nasreen Shakarami’s brother and sister. Sister Atash later said on Iranian television that her niece had fallen from a tall building.

Nika’s mother said she believes her siblings were pressured into repeating the official version.

Iran has a long history of broadcasting coerced confessions.

Also on Friday, the official IRNA news agency quoted the coroner’s office as saying investigations had found Mahsa Amini died of cerebral hypoxia – a condition in which the brain’s oxygen supply decreases. It said she had failed multiple organs, but “her death was not caused by blunt force trauma to the head, organs and vital parts of the body.”

Amini suffered from cardiac arrhythmias, hypotension and loss of consciousness before being taken to a hospital.

Amini’s family rejected the coroner’s report because authorities had failed to consult the specialists the family had requested, BBC Persian reported. Mahsa Amini’s father previously said her body bore clear marks from bruises and blows.

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