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Special Features

We Were Forced to Bury My Nephew at Night

November 28, 2019
Shahed Alavi
7 min read
A notice for the mourning ceremonies for 21-year-old Arsham Ebrahimi, who was shot during protests in Isfahan and died in hospital
A notice for the mourning ceremonies for 21-year-old Arsham Ebrahimi, who was shot during protests in Isfahan and died in hospital

Arsham Ebrahimi, a young man of 21, was killed during recent protests in Isfahan. He was fatally shot on November 16 and died in hospital. 

“My brother is a wounded veteran of the Iran-Iraq war,” Arsham Ebrahimi’s uncle, Behzad Ebrahimi, told IranWire. “He was a prisoner of war in Iraq for eight years and was tortured. I am also a veteran who was wounded by chemical weapons and my father fought in the Khorramshahr Operations,” he said, referring to the 1982 Iranian military’s successful operation to liberate Khorramshahr from Iraqi occupation.

Islamic Republic officials routinely praise veterans of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, especially those who were wounded or taken prisoner. But this regular praise and celebration does not translate to much in real life. Although the Ebrahimi family know many people in Isfahan, it took them days to find a trace of Arsham after he was shot dead. “After four days of searching,” says Behzad Ebrahimi, “at 1:30am the governor of Isfahan called me and said: ‘My condolences. He has died.’”

He says the authorities were refusing to hand over Arsham’s body. After repeated requests, they did hand the body over to them, but only on the condition that he would be buried at night.

“They said that the [provincial] security council has ordered the body be buried at night. We repeatedly told them that it was raining, that it was snowing, but they did not listen. They sent four policemen with us so that we would not take the body somewhere else and would bury him.”

He says that Arsham had nothing to do with the protests and was merely stuck in a traffic jam resulting from the protests as he was returning home from work. “Our boy had nothing to do with the clashes,” says his uncle. “He worked for a company that refilled fire extinguisher capsules and he was returning home when got caught in the traffic jam. His father became worried and called him on the phone. Arsham told my brother that they were burning tires where he was and he was stuck in the traffic. His father suggested that he should leave the car there and come home. But Arsham was late. His sister called him and he said that he was coming home, but suddenly my brother heard shots. He got on the bicycle and left home. It was close to their home, perhaps 700 or 800 meters away. My brother saw the car but it was empty. We searched for him for a few day until the governor called me.”

He described their search for Arsham in more detail: “We went to the [provincial] governor’s office with a clergyman named Mr. Mohammadi. The security council was in session and we wrote to them to request [for help]. Then the governor wrote a letter to the commander of the Isfahan Basij Corps. We went there, but they would not let us in. Mr. Sistani, the governor, was the only person who answered me, only because he knew me. We had worked together before at the governor’s office.”


What about people without connections?

We asked Behzad Ebrahimi whether he thought that other people whose loved ones had gone missing during the protests but who do not have the connections he does would be able to go through the same process he did, and find answers. “No,” he answered, without hesitation. “I don’t think so because it seems that the security council had ordered that all of the [dead] must be buried within an hour in a place decided by them. Arsham was also among those that they said must be buried together in Isfahan’s Bagh Rezvan [Cemetery] but we were able to bring his body from Bagh Rezvan and bury him in our own neighborhood of Babukan.”

The Ebrahimi family has managed to talk to a few eyewitnesses. “According to eyewitnesses, Arsham had left the car and was running to get home when he suddenly fell to the ground,” says his uncle. “They put him in a car and took him to the hospital.” 

By chance, the family met the doctor who examined Arsham at the hospital. “His mother fainted during the [funeral] ceremonies and they took her to the doctor,” says Behzad Ebrahimi. “My brother and his wife are cousins so the family name of Arsham’s mother is also Ebrahimi. When the doctor asked what had happened, they told him about her son. And the doctor knew about him because they had asked Arsham his name.”

According to the doctor, Arsham had been shot from the back and his spleen or liver had been hit. The doctor tried to save him but he lost too much blood and died. The doctor had asked him what he was doing when he was shot and he had said that he was returning from work.

“He was 195cm tall but if he sat here for three days you would not hear a sound from him,” says his uncle. “This was our reward. What had he done to deserve this?’


Branded as Thugs

The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has dismissed the widespread protests and labeled the protesters “thugs” who received their orders from the family of the former Shah and from the enemies of the Islamic Republic. But Arsham’s uncle says, “the protesters were poor and helpless people who were silenced.”

Did anybody tell Behnam Ebrahimi why Arsham was shot in the back? “No, nothing at all,” he says without hesitation. “They even behaved as though we owe them something. It is the regime that owes us. They killed the son of a veteran but they told us that we had to take the body at night. Why at night? They said some people might come and chant slogans. I said I was ready to sign a guarantee that nobody would do such a thing and nothing unusual would happen but they did not relent.”

In recent days there have been reports that the families of those killed in the protests have been asked for money before they can have the bodies of their loved ones back. “Nobody asked us for money, perhaps because his father was a prisoner of war and I am a wounded veteran,”  Arsham’s uncle says. 

During their search for Arsham, the Ebrahimis came across many other families looking for their missing loved ones. “There were many of them,” says his uncle. “In the neighborhood of Rehnan in Isfahan a 16-year-old by the name of Abedi had been killed. His uncle works for the Islamic Development Organization and because of this they gave them the body. He was the only son, like our Arsham. My brother has two daughters but Arsham was his only son.”


Don’t Tell the Media 

“The very first day they told us not to talk to foreign media until the details are definitely known,” Behnam Ebrahimi says. “But they have yet to tell us anything. What is definite is that we have lost our 21-year-old young man and the whole family has been devastated. We are still after the truth and we do not know exactly what happened.” A representative from the intelligence services has told him they were investigating and would send the case to the prosecutor, “but nobody has called me yet,” he says.

“I told Governor Sistani and his deputy Mr. Heydar Ghasemi that the murderer of this young man must found.” Over the last few days many people have visited the Ebrahimi family to commiserate with them and offer their condolences. “We talked to the veterans who had come to our home,” Arsham Ebrahimi’s uncle says. “We respect people’s rights, but we cannot approve of those who set banks on fire and destroy public property. On the other hand, neither we can approve what they have been doing [to the protesters]. We should let people have their say. Then, if they wanted to shoot, they could have shot their legs, but they shot them in the face.” 

After a pause he says, “Of course, I don’t have accurate information about the others so I cannot say anything more.”


Related Coverage:

Security Forces Attacked Isfahan and then Blamed the Locals, 27 November 2019

Security Forces Kill a 13-Year-Old Bystander, 26 November 2019

Government Source: 218 Dead and 4,523 Arrested in Iran Protests, 25 November 25 2019

She was Helping the Injured when They Killed Her, 25 November 25 2019

The Names of the Dead, 23 November 2019

He was Unemployed. He Protested. They Murdered him, 22 November 2019

Politician Says 130 Dead in Recent Protests, 21 November 2019

Shutting Down the Internet to Get Away with Murder, 19 November 2019

Twenty Dead as Shots Fired From Friday Imam’s Helicopter, 19 November 2019

Iranian Kurdish City Under Siege and Family of the Dead Ordered to be Silent, 18 November 2019

Murder and Mass Arrests to Silence Behbahan Protesters, 18 November 2019



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