By Fereshteh Ghazi, Rooz Online
The mother of Sattar Beheshti - a blogger who dies in prison - told Rooz that EU’s foreign policy chief said she would enquire about her son’s murder from Iranian authorities. “Ms Ashton treated me in a very friendly and respectful manner. She said she would talk to Iranian officials about Sattar and ask them about him,” she said.
Gohar Eshghi, mother of Sattar Beheshti, holding her son's photo
EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travelled to Iran last week where she also met Narghes Mohammadi, the deputy director of Iran’s Center for the Defenders of Human Rights and Gowhar Eshghi, the mother of Sattar Beheshti; a meeting that has sent tremors across Iran’s political system. Members belonging to hardline principlists who oppose Hassan Rouhani’s administration and their affiliate media, called Mohammadi and Eshghi “seditionists” - a term reserved for those who actively protested the rigged presidential election of 2009 - among other names, lawmakers signed letters calling the ministers of foreign affairs and intelligence to provide answers, the head of the judiciary threatened the government that it would confront future foreign delegations and some Basij members gathered in front of the Austrian embassy, where Eshghi and Mohammadi met Ashton.
But what happened during the meeting? Eshghi told Rooz, “The meeting took place in an emotional and friendly atmosphere. Ms Ashton treated me in a very friendly and respectful manner and said that she would talk to Iranian officials (about her son) and ask them about him. I told her that Sattar died under torture. I said that they detained Sattar on November 18 and killed him four days later. I told her everything that took place; the threats that they made against me and that Sattar’s interrogator had said that he beat Sattar and laughed while doing it. I told her that they had said that it was an unmeditated murder but based on the very words of the interrogator who said he would beat Sattar and laugh at the act, confessing that Sattar died under his hands I and our attorney view this as premeditated murder.”
“We did not do anything wrong and have nothing to hide. We went everywhere, wrote letters to everybody, sent messages and talked with everyone we could right from the beginning. I requested a meeting with the head of the judiciary, I sent a message to the supreme leader but nobody paid any attention. They did not contact me even to make me feel better. But they did continue to threaten me. We have suffered a lot and finally they said it was unmeditated murder and our complaints and pursuit did not produce any results,” she continued.
“Ms Ashton met with me, but not a single domestic official or authority did that. None of them tried to ease my pain. The minister of the interior claimed that Sattar’s family had been sympathized with and given financial assistance, whereas in reality none of that was done. Mr. Motahari requested the minister of interior to apologize to me and people but Mr. Kowsari proclaimed that no injustice had been done to Sattar Beheshti. Why are they now angry about my meeting with Ms Ashton? They did not do anything when I pleaded with them,” she continued.
Catherine Ashton with Gohar Eshghi and women's rights activist Nargess Mohammadi
Ms Eshghi responded to the remarks of Guards general Jazaeri who had said that she and Narghes Mohammadi were insane by saying, “Yes, I am insane because of the injustice and cruelty that have been inflicted on me. I am insane because of the murder of my son. I am insane because nobody took the hand of this victim. The same is true for Narghes. The world knows me and Narghes. We cannot expect anything from these people (Iranian officials).”
Javan newspaper had published a photograph of the meeting between Ms Eshghi and Ms Ashton but had removed her image from the photograph. Rooz asked Ms Eshghi about the removal of her image to which she said, “I am not political, which may be the reason they removed my image. They took my son’s life and continue to trample on his loss. We are doing this so that another Sattar is not killed this way. He is gone but his memory will live. His body is gone and I go to his grave every day and talk to my son.”
This bereaved mother said that she would demand justice for as long as she lives. She said they have made her fearless. “They made me stronger by their threats against my daughter and me when they said they would arrest my daughter and do to her what they did to Sattar. When I saw Sattar’s body put down into his grave, I felt calmness inside me. We saw that he went with goodness and the world remembers him as such. They rightly say that a good man never dies, his body leaves but his name remains eternal. I am proud to be the mother of Sattar and will be proud to have an honorable ending like his.”
For Sattar Beheshti's mother
(by Mana Neyestani)
The reactions to the meeting between Ashton and these Iranians did not end with just name calling. Even Ms Ashton was not spared the insults. Until a few days ago Ms Ashton was accused of interference in Iran’s internal affairs, but since the meeting a hardline principlist lawmaker called her a witch and categorized her meeting with Iranian civil activists to be worse than “capitulation.” He said it was not acceptable that the foreign and intelligence ministers were inactive in this. Ali Larijani, the head of Iran’s parliament compared Ashton’s meeting to an act of a thief who did something secretly and without being seen. Fatemeh Rahbar, the head of the women’s faction in the Majlis wrote a letter to Ashton telling her that she had met with armed opposition criminals.
Javan newspaper, the media that belongs to the Revolutionary Guards, which had removed Eshghi’s photo from the published photograph of the meeting, quoted a hardliner Ahmad Khatami, who is the Friday prayer leader of Tehran’s congregational prayers, as having said that the meeting had to have been planned in advance.
The newspaper was met with countless protests over the removal of Eshghi’s image from the photograph to which it responded by saying it did removed her image because it did not want to call her a seditionist.
A senior cleric Hossein Nouri Hamedani from the city of Ghom also said that Ashton’s meeting demonstrated her interference in Iran’s domestic affairs and showed a management weakness which allowed her to have a meeting with some dissidents.
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