The mother of a nine-year-old boy who died during protests in Iran this week has accused security forces of killing her son, as funerals take place across the country for some of those who died in the biggest anti-regime demonstrations yet in the Islamic republic.
Authorities have blamed “terrorists” for the deaths of Kian Pirfalak, nine, and Artin Rahmani, 14, in Izeh. This follows an alleged armed attack by two men on a motorcycle that killed at least seven people.
At her son’s funeral on Friday, Zeinab Molaeirad, Pirfalak’s mother, said that “it is a lie when they say a terrorist” killed her son. In a video of the funeral, she said security forces had told the family of four to go back as they neared protests. “Kian said: ‘Daddy, trust the police this time and go back. They want us to be good’ . . . [the father] immediately turned round and then the car faced live ammunition.”
The protests stem from the death in custody in September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman. Demonstrators have called for the toppling of the Islamic republic and its replacement by a secular, modern government. More than 200 people have died since the protests began, according to Amnesty International, including 30 children. Their deaths have fuelled public anger and further protests.
In the north-west of the country, the funerals on Friday of Aylar Haghi, a 23-year-old female medical student in the city of Tabriz, and Azad Hosseinpour — in the Kurdish town of Mahabad — also attracted protesters.
“We are all Aylar; you fight and we will fight back,” people chanted in Tabriz. Meanwhile, people in the central city of Semirom marched through snowy ground to bury three young men who also died during the protests this week. Mourners chanted slogans against Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
There has been little official acknowledgment of protesters’ deaths or the role allegedly played by security forces. A senior police officer of East Azerbaijan province, Ebrahim Mahmoudi, said on Friday that Haghi died as a result of an accident on a construction site. He said three people had been arrested over her death and urged Iranians to ignore opposition claims she was killed during protests.
Thousands have been detained for their role in the protests, including journalists, activists, documentary makers and university students. This week, the judiciary began to hear some of their cases. At least five protesters were given the death penalty for offences including killing security forces or destroying state property but these sentences are subject to appeal.
Amnesty International said this week that at least 21 people were on death row following “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising . . . and deter others from joining the movement”.
At Pirfalak’s funeral, videos showed large crowds, singing a famous war song from his region. “God knows this is a war of guns.”