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"How Could They Shoot at a Kid?" Iranian Authorities Shirk Responsibility After Teen Killed on Way Home from School

12/12/19

Source: Center for Human Rights in Iran

Fifteen-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah was walking home from high school in the city of Shiraz, Fars Province when he was shot and killed by a bullet while local authorities were repressing street protests in his city.

In an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), his sister Ghazal Dastankhah said the authorities had offered to pay his parents blood money, which according to Islamic law is paid as financial compensation to the victim or heirs of a victim in cases of murder, bodily harm, or property damage, but were vague about his cause of death to avoid responsibility.

Ghazal Dastankhah added that her father has filed a complaint in court as well as sued the young man's school for falsely claiming Mohammad Dastankhah was absent from the school on the day he died, and for canceling classes and sending children into dangerous conditions while protests were ongoing.

"My brother's friends were with him when he was shot... His friends witnessed everything," Ghazal Dastankhah told CHRI on December 9, 2019. "But officials are denying he was at school that day. Even though Mohammad had gone to school, they are saying he was absent because they don't want to get into trouble."

Following is a transcript of her statements to CHRI:

On Saturday, November 16 [2019] at about three in the afternoon, I left home to go to the university without knowing there were protests. I took a taxi up to some point and the driver said he could not go any further. He told me to go back home. I started walking back home when I saw people protesting. It was a confrontation. It was on Mowlana St. As I continued to walk, I saw the medical emergency unit had arrived. Three people had been shot with bullets. An emergency worker came to help one of them, but the wounded man said 'I'm okay. Go help the people. They killed people.' I saw three people who had been shot with bullets. I myself saw bullets being fired directly [at people].

They threw tear gas and we all ran away. Nobody stopped. As we were running, they fired bullets at us. At that moment, a helicopter came, and everyone was thinking about escaping. I ran away. I don't know why the helicopter had come. I was forced to go inside a hair salon and stayed there for a couple of hours. I called my mother and told her I was okay, and she shouldn't worry. They had thrown tear gas and I couldn't go out. The smell of tear gas subsided a bit when the people made bonfires in the street and I was able to come out.

At about four in the afternoon, one of our acquaintances had called my mother and told her that school had been canceled. My mother called Mohammad's school and asked [the principal] Mr. Khodadadi if the students had been dismissed. He said yes and Mohammad had been sent home at 2:30. We started looking for Mohammad from four until nine at night, but we didn't find him. Then we were told that the wounded had been taken to the Abu-Ali Sina Hospital and we should look for him there. Then we realized that my brother had been shot with a bullet at the same place where I had seen bullets being fired on Mowlana St.

At first, they wouldn't let us inside the hospital. There were a lot of agents there. My mother said she wanted to know if Mohammad was there. He was wearing a school uniform. One of the nurses told my mother '... your son was brought here and I myself put him in the cold room. He had a uniform and a school bag.' That's when we realized Mohammad was not alive.

The bullet had penetrated his side and gone through his heart, lungs and spleen and tore them apart. The death certificate said he had been struck by a penetrating ballistic object, but it did not specify what kind of gun or bullet was used.

We had no problem transporting my brother's body, maybe because we buried him outside Shiraz. We wanted to bury him next to our grandfather's grave in the village of Kouhe Sabz near Marvdasht. On Monday, November 18, we were told not to come to the hospital for a couple of days because they were very busy. Then they told us the body had been sent for an autopsy. On Wednesday, November 20, they gave us the body. We didn't distribute any flyers or inform anyone. We washed my brother's body on Thursday, November 21, and buried him on Friday. We held a funeral ceremony for him without any problem. About 3,000 people showed up.

My father filed a judicial complaint on the same day we picked up the body. My brother's friends were with him when he was shot. When Mohammad was shot, one of his friends found our house keys in his pocket and brought them to us two days later. His friends witnessed everything. But officials are denying he was at school that day. Even though Mohammad had gone to school, they are saying he was absent because they don't want to get into trouble. My father has also sued the school. The teacher said Mohammad was absent, but the school janitor and students have signed and fingerprinted a statement saying that they had seen Mohammad at school. At the moment, we are following up on the complaint in order to find my brother's killer and hold the school accountable for negligence [for cancelling classes while conditions were dangerous outside the school.

After we filed the complaint, we got a call on Thursday, November 21, from the detective's office and we were told to go over there on Saturday. We went there and they asked us some irrelevant questions about Mohammad and where he had been when he was shot. They didn't take any particular action. The case was still open but when went back there, they told us Mohammad was going to be declared a martyr and they were going to pay us blood money.

Why should we care about blood money when our brother has been killed? Let them declare my brother a god or a martyr. Is that going to bring him back to life? My brother was only 15-years-old. He was in his first year of high school. He was a kid. He wasn't participating in the protests. Why did they shoot him? We want to know who killed my brother. We want to ask them, how could they shoot at a kid? Blood money is not going to take away our pain.

Read this article in Persian.


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