When her case drew attention online, Iranian authorities denied all responsibility on Friday, claiming she died by suicide by jumping off a roof. But the details of Esmaeilzadeh’s death in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, fit into a broader pattern of security forces targeting, arresting and, in some cases, killing minors as Iran’s anti-government insurgency enters its fourth week.
Esmaeilzadeh “died after being hit badly in the head with batons,” according to Amnesty International reported her death in September. 30 and said she was one of at least 52 people killed by security forces through September. 25, a report later confirmed by other rights groups.
On her blog Esmaeilzadeh occasionally complained about discrimination against women in Iran. Teenagers “need freedom” to have a good life, she said posted a video May 22. But she can’t, she said, “because of some restrictions that are specifically imposed on women,” like the mandatory hijab and a ban on entering sports stadiums. Iranians could expect “nothing else” from the government than social assistance, she said.
“It’s been less than 20 years since we haven’t seen another teenager besides ourselves,” Esmaeilzadeh told the camera, dressed in a colorful shirt with cartoon prints. “And it’s only natural that as a human you would look for the better option.”
Esmaeilzadeh’s case is uncanny similar to 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, who also died during protests last month. Her family claim she was killed by security forces after burning a hijab, while Iranian authorities claim she fell from a roof. Shakarami’s death and apparent attempts to cover it up and intimidate her family fueled further outrage.
The unexplained death of another young woman, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the Iranian moral police in mid-September triggered the nationwide protests. Despite crackdowns and internet shutdowns, popular unrest continues, presenting Iran’s spiritual leaders with their greatest challenge in several years.
“I can see that the protests have continued to spread after the killings increased, particularly with the killing of Nika and Sarina,” said Negin, a 36-year-old art teacher at a Tehran high school who has joined the protests. opposite the Washington Post. She spoke on condition that only her first name would be used for her safety.
Negin said one of her male relatives initially dismissed the protests as “a bunch of spoiled kids making a mess.” But he was very saddened by Esmaeilzadeh’s death, which he compared to the loss of a great poet in Iran.
Iranian censorship and reporting restrictions make it difficult to verify casualty figures, but human rights groups have identified this more than two dozen children killed in demonstrations. Many of the minors lived in long-margined areas of Iran, including the provinces of Kurdistan and Balochistan, where state crackdowns have been harshest.
According to reports, Esmaeilzadeh went with several friends after class on Sept. 22. She didn’t come back that night.
Reports of Esmaeilzadeh’s death and videos from her blog soon began circulating online. A video of the teenager singing a song by the Irish musician Hozier reached out to the singer on Friday, he said.
“We talk about freedoms without understanding what it means to pay the ultimate price when we fight for them,” he said. Hozier tweeted. “This brave girl was only 16 years old in the world…”
Under pressure, Iranian authorities said on Friday that the teenager died by suicide after jumping from a five-story building. Also the state television broadcast an interview with Esmaeilzadeh’s mother, who said her daughter once tried to take pills to kill herself. She confirmed the official cause of death.
But Iran has a long history of coercing confessions and showing them on state television, according to human rights groups. Shakarami’s mother said her family was pressured into giving false information about her daughter’s death.
State television was briefly hacked later on Saturday by a group calling themselves “Adalat Ali” or Ali’s Justice. The hackers interrupted a newscast with slogans in support of the protests and pictures of protesters killed, including Esmaeilzadeh.
“The main core of this revolution is Sarina and her generation,” said Negin. “A group that is fully aware of their rights, is in touch with the world and knows very well what they are being denied. … You are not afraid of [my] Generation.”