BBC documentary on arrested Iranian woman’s death angers authorities

Iranian teenager Nika Shakrami, killed after her arrest during protests in Iran, seen here on a cell phone, October 6, 2022. AFP

She had become one of the leading faces of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising that swept Iran for months in 2022. Videos of 16-year-old Iranian teenager Nika Shakarami dancing and singing went viral.

She disappeared on September 20, 2022, during a protest that erupted four days after the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini, who died in police custody for wearing an improperly fitted veil. Her family found Nika’s lifeless body nine days later in a morgue with her face and head deformed. From the beginning, Iranian authorities have claimed that her death was a suicide. Shakarami’s family has always answered this claim.

A recent documentary titled Nika’s Last Breath, aired on April 30 by the BBC World Service, presents evidence that the teenager was sexually assaulted and beaten during his arrest. It also reveals that she was killed by three agents of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s ideological military.

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Never before have such details been revealed about the treatment inflicted by the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus on an arrested person. The broadcast of this documentary has provoked an outcry within the regime, with officials attempting to discredit it by publishing other documents supposedly supporting the theory of the young girl’s suicide.

The highly confidential documents obtained by the BBC include accounts of the hearings of all the agents allegedly involved in Shakarami’s death and of the senior managers who may have attempted to cover up the incident, along with their names.

Clubs and tasers

According to documents obtained by the BBC, Shakarami was identified during a demonstration as a potential leader and therefore followed by secret service agents infiltrated among the demonstrators. The young girl was arrested and placed in the back of a refrigerated van. Although handcuffed, she continued to defend herself, kicking and insulting the three agents in the vehicle with her. The head of the unit was in the front of the van with the driver. The team tried to find a detention center to place the teenager.

The three agents made her lie down on the floor of the van. One of them sat on her, supposedly to prevent her from moving. According to one of his colleagues, the same man slipped his hand down the girl’s pants as she tried to fight back. Then, “control of the situation got away from us,” said another of the three agents when he was questioned by the Revolutionary Guards, according to documents obtained by the BBC. They all began to hit the girl with their truncheons and fists. The report states: “Three trunkeons and three tasers were used. It is not known exactly which blow caused death.”

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