JEDDAH: A teenage girl beaten to death by police has emerged as the tragic new face of Iran’s brutal crackdown on protests sweeping the country.
Official Iranian claims that Nika Shakarami, 16, fell to her death from a high building have been mocked throughout the country, and her mother says the girl was killed by a series of blows to the head.
Nasreen Shakarami also says Iranian authorities kept her daughter’s death a secret for nine days, and then snatched the body from a morgue to bury her in a remote area, against the family’s wishes.
Nika left her home in Tehran on the afternoon of Sept. 19 to join the protests. Her mother was in touch with her by phone several times in the next few hours, pleading with Nika to come home. They last spoke before midnight. “Then Nika’s mobile was off, after she and her friends were shouting names of forces while they were fleeing,” Nasreen said.
The family searched for Nika at police stations and prisons, but had no news of her whereabouts for nine days. Authorities finally handed over the body on the 10th day, and the family headed to the city of Khoramabad for burial. Authorities repeatedly demanded to take possession of the body, which was being kept in the Khoramabad morgue.
On the day of the planned funeral the family learned that the body had been taken from the morgue and moved to a remote village for burial, under heavy security.
After the burial, Iran’s police chief Gen. Hossein Ashtari said Nika had visited a building on the day of her death, and fell from an upper floor. “The fall from that height led to her death,” he said.
However, Nasreen said a forensic report showed her daughter had died from repeated blows to the head.Nika’s body was intact, but some of her teeth, bones in her face and part of the back of her skull were broken, Nasreen said. “The damage was to her head,” she said. “Her body was intact, arms and legs.”
The protests, which begin their fourth week on Saturday, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police. They had detained her for wearing her hijab in an “insufficiently modest manner.”
Young women have led the protests, tearing off their headscarves, cutting their hair and calling for the government to be toppled. Dissident groups say more than 400 protesters have been killed in the regime’s crackdown.