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Family forced to lie about cause of death of 16-year-old Iranian girl

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The family of 16-year-old Iranian Nika Shakarami has been forced to make false statements about the cause of her death, BBC Persian reports. The girl died in September after being chased from a protest by Iranian police.

Nika went missing on September 20 this year after attending a protest in the capital Tehran over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. After the protest, the 16-year-old girl told a friend that she was being chased by the police. The same day, the disappearance was widely shared on social media and Nikaom’s family asked for clarification.

Ten days after the disappearance, Nika’s family found out that the girl had died. Her body was in the morgue of a prison complex outside the city.

After all the fuss on social media about the disappearance of the sixteen-year-old girl, state television came with a broadcast about the cause of death. This featured Nika’s aunt, Atash. She announced that her niece had been the victim of a tragic accident. “Nika died when she fell from a building during the protests.” A senior government official confirmed this cause of death. Nika’s uncle, Mohsen, was also featured in the report.

Now a family friend tells BBC Persian that this was a forced confession made after intense interrogation and threats that other family members would be killed. Atash and Mohsen were both allegedly arrested after Atash saw her niece in the morgue, posted online about the cause of death and talked about it with the media. According to the family friend, the television statements were forcibly recorded while they were being held by the police.

Nika’s mother also speaks out in an interview with Radio Farda, an Iranian radio station. She confirms that Nika’s aunt and uncle have been forced to give a statement and that their family’s safety is still at risk if they don’t play along with the police’s scenario.

The BBC says it has a document from the autopsy report stating the real cause of death. Nika is said to have died from “several injuries she sustained after being struck on the head with a hard object”.

Nika’s Instagram and Telegram accounts were also deleted shortly after the disappearance, according to Atash. Iran’s vice squad is known to demand that their inmates give them access to their social media accounts so that the accounts (or certain posts) can be deleted.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MAHSA AMINI?

Mahsa Amini, 22, whose real first name is Zhina (Kurdish for ‘life’), was violently arrested on September 13 by the vice squad in the Iranian capital Tehran. The police check whether everyone follows the religious rules of the government and arrest women when they do not wear their headscarves (properly), walk in ‘trousers’ or otherwise do not comply with the dress code. This was also the reason for Mahsa’s arrest and therefore she would be taken to an ‘education centre’ at the police station.

DEATH

According to eyewitnesses, Mahsa was assaulted by the police. When her brother wanted to visit her at the police station, she was already on her way to the hospital. She died there a few days later. Authorities claim she died of ‘sudden heart failure’, but according to her family and witnesses, Mahsa went into a coma from blows to her head and had already been declared brain dead on arrival at the hospital. A United Nations commissioner demanded an investigation into the death, which the Iranian president ordered on Sept. 23 amid ongoing protests in both Iran and other countries.

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