Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO); October 7, 2022: Sarina Esmailzadeh, a 16-year-old girl from Mehrshahr in Karaj, was killed due to multiple baton blows by security forces in the September 22 protests. Authorities have aired so-called confessions by alleged family members announcing her cause of death as suicide.
After reviewing the evidence and speaking to eyewitnesses and close sources, Iran Human Rights confirms Sarina’s state killing, and strongly condemns the pressure on her family by security agencies to force them into repeating the false suicide narrative. The organisation demands the international legal prosecution and sanctioning of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s (IRIB) directors.
Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “The authorities are using institutions like IRIB as propaganda tools to absolve Ali Khamenei and the forces under his command of killings like that of Sarina Esmailzadeh; just as they used this method for other state killings like Mahsa (Jina) Amini and Nika Shakarami.” He added: “IRIB and all institutions that contribute to covering up these crimes by airing and publishing forced confessions and false accounts, are complicit in the crimes and should be held accountable. Human rights violators, including IRIB and its directors and journalist-interrogators should be prosecuted and sanctioned by the international community.”
According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, “after her English class ended at noon on September 22, Sarina Esmailzadeh and several of her friends went to join the people’s protests near her language school. At the protest, security forces repeatedly beat Sarina on the head with a baton until she was severely bleeding from the head.”
As it was impossible to transfer Sarina to a hospital, a source said, people took her to a house nearby to treat her wounds but Sarina had already passed away.
A source added: “Sarina’s family didn’t know what had happened to her until her friends who were with her at the protest, contacted them at 10:30 pm, informing them that Sarina had been killed by the security forces.”
According to the source, when her family went to the location of the protest, people told them that Sarina’s body had been taken to the hospital by an ambulance. But her family’s search for her at hospitals and morgues proved fruitless and none of the relevant authorities would give them a clear answer about where Sarina’s body was.
Sarina Esmailzadeh was born on 2 July 2006 and lived with her mother and older brother. She had lost her father in childhood.
Sarina's burial under strict security measures
Security agents contacted Sarina’s family at noon on September 23 and asked her to immediately go to the cemetery to pick up her prepared (washed according to Islamic tradition) body. When her family reached the cemetery, Sarina’s body was surrounded with security forces and they were not even allowed to inform other close relatives. Sarina’s family were forced to bury her under strict security measures.
According to Iran Human Rights sources, security forces only showed the family Sarina’s face for identification and according to her family, multiple injuries were clearly visible on her face and the right side of her forehead was completely crushed due to the severity of the blows.
State efforts to push fake scenario by pressuring Sarina’s family
16-year-old Sarina Esmailzadeh’s family have been under pressure by security and judiciary agents to prevent them from disclosing the details and circumstances of her death, and force them to repeat the suicide state narrative since that day.
“Since noon on September 23, all her family including her mother, brother and maternal uncle and aunt, have been under intense pressure and threats to force televised interviews,” a close source told Iran Human Rights.
According to the source, Sarina’s family have been summoned to the police station and prosecutor’s office several times, where they have been interrogated.
The source added: “Representatives from IRIB were also present at the prosecutor’s office and police station. Security agents told the family to repeat a series of dictated words in front of the camera, but the family refused. At the prosecutor’s office, Sarina’s mother was told to announce her daughter’s cause of death as falling from a building, which she refused each time.”
Sarina’s family have been under such intense pressure, threats and interrogations that they cannot even hold a funeral for her. In one visit to their home, security agents pulled down every death announcement posters and banner which they confiscated.
Simultaneously, Mehr newsagency which is affiliated to the Islamic Development (advertisement) Organisation, aired a short video with a woman they claimed to be Sarina Esmailzadeh’s mother, denying any state involvement in her daughter’s death. In the video, the presenter also tried to insinuate that Sarina had a history of suicide and was not mentally well.
On October 7, the Alborz province prosecutor, Hossein Fazeli Harikandi announced that 16-year-old Sarina Esmailzadeh had died after falling from her grandmother’s roof in the Azimieh neighbourhood of Karaj. He declared the cause of death to have been suicide, which he claimed she had a history of. He also called the news that Sarina had been killed by security forces as “claims made by hostile media” and said her location of death had been one of the “disturbance-free areas in Karaj.”
The Islamic Republic used the same scenario for Nika Shakarami, a 17-year-old protester killed by security forces who they also claimed had died after falling from a building.
Nika Shakarami went missing after taking part in a protest on Keshavarz Boulevard in Tehran on September 20. In her last phone call, she said she was being chased by security forces. Her injured body was identified by her family ten days later. Security forces secretly buried Nika in a remote location after stealing her body from the morgue.
Declaring Nika’s cause of death as falling from a building at the Amir Akram intersection, Mohammad Shahriari, the head of the Criminal Prosecutor’s Office for Tehran said: “The building where this lady’s backpack was discovered, was in the final stages of construction, and there are two clothing factories already in production with workers and security. No bullet or pellet wounds were discovered in her autopsy and investigations show that this incident had nothing to do with the street riots.”
On October 5, IRIB aired the forced confessions of Nika Shakarami’s aunt, Atash Shakarami and uncle, . Before her uncle speaks, a shadow can be seen to his left and the words “say it you filth!” can be heard being whispered. Nika’s aunt and uncle were arrested days after her killing and their forced confession were obtained under duress.
In response to the televised forced confessions, Iran Human Rights rejected the Islamic Republic’s contradictory claims of her death based on grainy edited videos and forced televised confessions based on duress and ill-treatment.
Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: "The evidence points to the government’s role in Nika Shakarami's murder; Unless the opposite is proven by an independent fact-finding mission under the supervision of the United Nations. Until such a committee is formed, the responsibility for Nika's murder, like the other victims of the current protests, rests with Ali Khamenei and the forces under his command.”
Lawyers denied access to Sarina Esmailzadeh’s case by security agencies
Sources close to Sarina’s family told Iran Human Rights that while the prosecutor has opened investigations into Sarina’s death and her mother, brother and uncle are being summoned by security agencies every day, their lawyer has so far been denied access to their case by judicial authorities.
The death certificate was also taken from her family on the day of her burial and has not been returned since.
“At the prosecutor’s office, Sarina’s family were told not to do media interviews about their daughter’s death, especially foreign media, so that her case wouldn’t become well known like others killed in the current protests. Her family’s phones are also being tapped by the authorities and her mother has told relatives that she can hear voices on calls from her mobile phone.”