A couple of years ago Hamid Rasuli went hiking in the mountains with a group of friends. During their trip, they were approached by a reporter and cameraman from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). The reporter asked him, "Why have you come on this hiking trip?" Rasuli smiled and said, "Because I am unemployed” – he had been out of work for a few years and it made him frustrated. The interview was later broadcast on television.
On Sunday, Hamid Rasuli went to the Hosseinabad area of Mehrshahr City in Karaj city with other protesters. He wanted to make his voice heard, to say that he had the right to work, and to protest against poverty, inflation, unemployment, and a corrupt government. The rally was marred by violence from security forces and law enforcement officials. People chanted slogans against the dire conditions they faced, and were met with bullets. The first victim was Hamid Rasuli. They took his life so that he could no longer protest.
This is the story one of Rasuli’s friends told me about the 32-year-old who lost his life on the night of Sunday, November 17, just because he demanded his rights.
Hamid Rasuli, known as Hamid Reza by his family, had a bitter end to his life, as his friend told me, and was hopeless and full of despair: “Hamid had a high-school diploma,” said his friend. “He worked in a factory for a few years after getting a vocational qualification and had steady work. But a few years ago he became unemployed again. I don't know if the factory went bankrupt. Hamid Reza was laid off, and that bothered him a lot.”
Unemployment had recently made Rasuli think of immigrating. He had told his friends that nothing was going to change for him if he stayed where he was. When I spoke to his friend, he agreed. "These people do not think about us at all,” his friend told me. “Maybe we can live somewhere else and achieve what we were deprived of here. These demonstrations had given him hope. Maybe he thought it could make a difference and force the government to change, or change it.”
Hamid Rasuli was born in Qazvin in Karaj province near Tehran, though his family were originally from Lorestan. His parents live in Taleqan, and also spent time in Qazvin and had lived in the city of Karaj for several years, where Rasuli and his wife had settled down. ”His journey ended there,” his friend said. "But his body was taken to Qazvin and buried there."
His body was handed over to his family on the morning of Tuesday, November 19, but only after the family promised not to say anything about the cause of his death and not to chant slogans at his funeral or burial. The authorities allowed the family to hold a ceremony in Hosseinieh, but in the presence of security forces, who attended both the funeral and the mosque.
One of Rasuli’s relatives became angry during the funeral and began saying things that attracted the attention of security forces. "The agents dragged him into a corner and beat him violently," said Rasuli's friend. "They had become wild and had no concern. They had killed a young boy who had been protesting against unemployment, corruption and oppression and who was completely unarmed; now anyone who asks why is punished. Isn’t this fascism?"
The Crackdown in Karaj
According to Amnesty International, at least four people were killed in the crackdown on Karaj protests. IranWire had earlier reported the names of two of the dead, and now two more have been named. They are Shahram Moini, 44, who was shot dead in on Saturday, November 16, and Mehdi Papi, 31, who was killed on Sunday, November 17 in Fardis, Karaj.
A source at the Iranian Interior Ministry had earlier disclosed that a summary of reports provided by governors across the country indicated that 200 protesters had died during the crackdown on protesters as of the afternoon of Monday, November 18. Radio Farda also reported that it had gathered credible data to conclude that at least 138 people had died in protests in 31 Iranian cities as of Wednesday, November 20.
On the whole, only the number of people killed, along with their names, have been provided; no more is known about what happened to most of the victims who died in the protests.
The media do not have any verifiable information about what kind of lives these people lived, or how they actually died, apart from from a bullet wound. But many rumors are being circulated about protesters defying police and security forces, despite the danger.
One story has emerged that a group of people in Shahriar were so angry and helpless that they ran after an armed officer, throwing stones at him. In Marivan, there were reports of protesters clashing with security forces, coming face-to-face with them.
With the internet still blocked or severely disrupted, it remains difficult to get information about what is happening. NetBlocks, an organization that promotes reports on internet freedom and monitors its governance around the world, has stated that as of the morning of Thursday, November 21, Iranians had been almost completely cut off from the internet – and the world – for a total of 100 hours. It also reported that the level of internet access in Iran had fallen to about 5 percent at the time of reporting.
On November 16, the National Security Council, which is chaired by the Interior Minister, ordered a near-complete shutdown of the internet across the country to prevent people from sending and sharing news, video footage and images of protests on both social media and to news agencies and people outside the country. The order remains in place, making it impossible for people to hear the stories of people who stood up to the regime, and who died doing so – not just names and faces, but people with real lives and real stories worth remembering.