14 Jul

Iran – Young Election Protester Buried in Tehran

“We will never forget you.”

By Robert Mackey

Sohrab Aarabi tributeThis image of Sohrab Aarabi, a 19-year-old protester who was buried on Monday, was uploaded to TwitPic with the caption: “We will never forget you.”

Iran’s opposition movement consecrated another martyr on Monday, with the funeral of a 19-year-old named Sohrab Aarabi, whose family just discovered on Saturday that he had died last month of a gunshot wound to the heart. Mr. Aarabi had been missing since the huge opposition rally in Tehran on June 15, which was followed by clashes between opposition protesters and Basij militia members during which several people were shot and killed.

On Monday, bloggers posted tributes to Mr. Aarabi online. This video recounts the story of his disappearance and shows his mother asking for information about him outside the gates of Evin prison before his death was announced and then crying inconsolably over his body during his funeral:

Bloggers using Twitter added the tag #Sorhab to many of their updates on the post-election turmoil, alongside the tag #Neda, indicating that he has become, like Neda Agha-Soltan, a martyr.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group, explained that news of Mr. Aarabi’s death was apparently withheld from his family until a sensitive anniversary had passed:

Mr. Aarabi’s mother, Parvin Fahimi, a member of the Mothers for Peace organization, tried repeatedly to get information about his situation, taking his photograph to prisons, courts and other addresses. Finally, on 11 July, after the protests commemorating the “18 Tir” student demonstrations in 1999, the family was summoned by the Revolutionary Court and referred to the Investigatory Bureau (Agahi), and asked to identify Sohrab from among several photographs of corpses. According to family members interviewed by the Campaign, his body had arrived at the coroner’s office on 19 June, five days after his disappearance.

A spokesman for the human-rights group, Hadi Ghaemi, demanded an investigation into the death and the delay in notifying the family, asking: “If Sohrab was shot on the street on 15 June, why was it recorded by the coroner only on 19 June?”

Sohrab AarabiSohrab Aarabi on his 19th birthday.

On the evening of Monday, June 15, when Mr. Aarabi went missing, members of the Basij militia were filmed shooting into a crowd of protesters during clashes near Tehran’s Azadi Square. Within hours, graphic video of wounded and dead protesters being carried from the scene appeared online.

As my colleague Robert Worth wrote in The New York Times on Monday “The reports of Mr. Arabi’s death renewed widespread claims that the number of protesters killed during the unrest was much higher than the official government figure of 20.”

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran emphasized that the treatment of Mr. Aarabi’s family has heightened those fears:

The lack of transparency and calculated delay in releasing the information about Aarabi’s unexplained death only raises anxieties about scores of others who are among the disappeared as well as those who have been held in incommunicado detention, with no contact to family members or lawyers, many for almost a month. An additional approximately 190 persons were arrested following the most recent demonstrations on 9 July.

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