Alleged Cover-Up of Teen Girl Deaths Galvanizes Iranians

Nika Shakarami's mother says authorities are lying about her murder by security forces
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2022 9:45 AM CDT
Alleged Cover-Up of Teen Girl Deaths Galvanizes Iranians
A woman rides a bicycle in front of a mural depicting women cutting their hair to show support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership, in a tunnel in Paris, France, on Oct. 5, 2022.   (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Iranian security forces appear to be "targeting, arresting, and, in some cases, killing minors" participating in anti-government protests, which is only fueling the already raging fire triggered by the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Zhina Amini, who'd been detained for violating the country's strict hijab law, reports the Washington Post. A 16-year-old girl filmed burning her headscarf during a Sept. 20 protest in Tehran told a friend she was being chased by police before her body turned up in a mortuary 10 days later. Officials say Nika Shakarami's body was found near a building from which she'd been thrown by workmen, who've since been arrested, per the Post. But her mother says the teen was murdered by authorities, who are now trying to cover that up, per CBS News.

The official explanation is eerily similar to one offered in the death of another 16-year-old girl, Sarina Esmailzadeh. Human rights groups say the teen, who wrote about discrimination against women on her blog, was fatally beaten by security forces in Karaj on Sept. 23. But authorities say she committed suicide by jumping from a building. While Sarina's mother confirmed the official cause of death, however, Nika's mother spoke out about government attempts to silence her family. She said her sister was forced to state Nika had died in a fall in a TV interview, while her brother was forced to condemn the protests. The BBC reports that as the brother spoke, an unseen figure could be heard whispering, "Say it, you scumbag!"

Nika's relatives also say they were only able to see the teen's face "for a few seconds" when identifying her body, which authorities later seized and buried. Her mother tells the BBC that "like Nika, I have been against compulsory hijab since I was a child. But my generation was not brave enough to protest. People my age accepted years of suppression, [intimidation], and humiliation." She adds authorities "killed my daughter" for speaking out "and now they are threatening me into a forced confession." Human rights groups say at least 80 people, including 28 children, have been killed in the violent crackdown on protesters. One protester tells the Post that "the protests have spread further after the killings increased, especially with the killing of Nika and Sarina." (Read more Iranian protests stories.)

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