Iranian Teen Slain In Postelection Protest Laid To Rest
By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Precisely one month after an election that set many Iranians on a collision
course with the country's unelected leaders, 19-year-old Sohrab Arabi became the
latest known victim of the backlash from mass street protests that followed the
disputed presidential vote.
Sohrab Arabi's family waited for three weeks to learn what happened to him.
His body was returned to his family on July 12 and, one day later, he was laid
to rest at Tehran's Behesht Zahra Cemetery. The funeral was attended by friends
and relatives, many of whom held red roses and chanted "God is great."
Official reports say about 20 people have been killed in the postelection unrest
that has presented the Iranian political establishment with its biggest crisis
in three decades.
But as many participants in the protests remain missing or are being held
incommunicado, some rights activists believe the real casualty figure is higher.
Missing person poster for Sohrab with a poem like message about his mother's pain
Sohrab had been missing since a June 15 protest in the Iranian capital. His
family had no idea what had happened to him until officials contacted them on
July 11 to notify them of the teenager's death.
A relative of Sohrab's who lives in Germany told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the
family was asked to identify the body.
"They showed them between 50 and 60 pictures of corpses," the relative said.
"There, his brother identified Sohrab's picture."
The cause of death was listed as a bullet to the heart. The coroner's office had
reported the cause of death on June 19, some three weeks before the family was
Friends and relatives of Sohrab Arabi at Behesht Zahra Cemetery on
Sohrab is described by people who knew him as a sensitive young man with many
hopes and dreams.
One dream was to be able to study at university. In recent months, he had
studied hard in order to pass the tough entrance exam.
Sohrab was also hoping for a change in his country. He voted for the first time
in his life in the June 12 election and participated in the protests over the
On June 15, he took part alongside his mother in a demonstration in the capital,
but they lost each other in the crowd. His mother came home and waited for her
son, but Sohrab never came back.
Since then, his family had repeatedly contacted authorities in an effort to
learn his whereabouts. His mother and other relatives went almost every day to
the front of Tehran's Evin prison, where scores of people detained in the
postelection crackdown are being held.
In a video posted on YouTube, Sohrab's mother is seen showing her son's picture
to people leaving the prison in the hope of obtaining some information about his
whereabouts. She asks the released detainees if they were harmed while in
Seeking A Full Account
The authorities' delay in informing the family has heightened questions about
the circumstances of Sohrab's death.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has said in a statement that
it is unclear if he was first injured and taken to a hospital and died later, or
if he died on the street on 15 June. The campaign has called for an independent
investigation and a full account of Sohrab's death.
The case has increased concerns over the fate of the other people who are among
the missing, or detainees who are being held with little or no contact with
their families and no access to information and legal representation.
The Iran-based rights group Committee For Extrajudicial Arrests said on July 12
that more than 4,000 people have been detained in the postelection crackdown.
Many remain in jail.
The French media group Reporters Without Borders says that 41 journalists are
among the detainees.
A number of key reformist figures have been also detained, including journalist
and former presidential adviser Saeed Hajarian, who is paralyzed. His son was
also detained and interrogated for several hours on July 13 before eventually
Rights groups have warned that many of the detainees are under pressure to make
According to a former political prisoner, the interrogation sessions are often
accompanied by harsh beatings.
The former political prisoner, who was released last week, told RFE/RL that the
notorious Evin prison is overcrowded with people detained in the recent
crackdown. He said health conditions are poor there and in some cases prisoners
receive insufficient food.
and a message left at Sohrab's funeral
A human rights lawyer also said that he has received reports about severe
beatings and torture at Evin.
Some families of detainees have sent open letters to Iran's judiciary officials
and others, expressing concern about their loved ones.
As a sign of increasing anxiety, people seeking information about their detained
relatives reportedly gathered on July 13 in front of Evin prison.
One of Iran's best-known journalists, Akbar Ganji, has announced that he and
several other intellectuals will launch a three-day hunger strike in front of
the United Nations building in New York on July 22 to call for the release of
all those who have been arrested in Iran following the postelection protests.
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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