The death of 16-year-old protester Nika Chakarami is fueling anger in Iran

The death of a 16-year-old girl during the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran – and the authorities’ apparent attempt to cover it up – gave another rallying cry to the protesters.

Nika Shakarami disappeared in Tehran on September 20 after burning her veil in protest of being persecuted by security forces and her family. BBC Persian, citing the account of a friend who was with her at the time. Then the government refused to reveal her whereabouts, stole her body for secret burial, and pressured relatives to make false statements about how she died, the family alleged.

Her story is eerily similar to that of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish woman whose death on September 16 in the custody of Iran’s “moral police” sparked the largest demonstrations Iran has seen in several years. Authorities said Amini suffered a heart attack after his arrest for an alleged violation of Iran’s strict dress code, and released altered footage as evidence. But her family believes she was mistreated, and at her funeral mourners shouted “Death to the dictator” – a forbidden reference to Iran’s supreme leader – before police attacked her.

The protests sweeping the country now present a formidable challenge to Iran’s religious leadership, reflecting decades of pent-up anger over poverty, repression, gender segregation and human rights abuses. Iran’s leaders blamed the West for the popular uprising and launched a violent crackdown, cutting off internet access and killing at least 80 people, according to rights groups. The authorities also threatened the families of the detainees and the dead in an attempt to silence them.

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Despite the danger, Shakarami’s aunt, Atash Shakarami, published the news of the girl’s disappearance on social media. Soon, her story started spreading online and gaining attention in Iran. Video of my thanks Wearing baggy black pants and a black T-shirt, her jet-black hair was cut short, while singing a Persian love song spread.

For several days, Iranian authorities have not commented publicly on the case, but the family says they have been under private pressure to remain silent.

Shakarami’s aunt told BBC Persian that the girl left the house on September 20 with a water bottle in her bag, supposed to visit her sister. The family later realized she was going to protest and may have taken water to rinse her eyes with tear gas.

The aunt said they lost contact with her around 7pm on September 20, and her Instagram and Telegram accounts were deleted that night. Security forces often demand that detainees give them access to their social media accounts.

The family filed a missing persons report and searched for them in hospitals and police stations. But they heard nothing until 10 days later, when they found her body in the mortuary.

“When we went to get to know her, they didn’t let us see her body, only her face for a few seconds,” Atash Shakarami BBC Persian.

As a condition of the body’s release, authorities demanded that the family bury it in private – a common tactic to avoid a funeral turning into a protest, as in Amini’s case.

The family took her body to Shakrami’s father’s hometown in western Iran on Sunday, but they were not given the opportunity to hold a funeral. On the same day, authorities recovered Shakarami’s body and buried it in a village about 25 miles away. They also arrested her aunt Atash Shakarami.

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Realizing they could no longer ignore her case, Iranian authorities finally commented on Shakarami’s death on Tuesday, claiming that her body was found on September 21 in the backyard of a building after she had fallen to her death. Authorities also said they allegedly arrested eight workers in the building when she died, According to Tasnim News. The news agency is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps whose police force, the Basij, has been a major part of the crackdown on protesters. Fars News, affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Wednesday released video clips Which she said showed Shakarami entering the building, although the person was not identified.

State TV The clips were also aired on Wednesday From Aunt Shakarmi confirmed the government’s account, saying that the teen fell from the roof of the building. Her uncle also appeared and criticized the protests. But as he was speaking, a shadow appeared and someone seemed to whisper in Farsi, “Say it, you prankster!”

Forced confessions have long been used by the Iranian government, according to rights groups, Shakrami’s mother said on Thursday Radio Fardathe Persian arm of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was also intimidated.

“They killed my daughter,” she said, “and now they’re threatening me with a forced confession.”

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