Iranian security forces have arrested eight people over the death of a 16-year-old teenager, Nika Shahkarami, in Tehran last month, Iranian media said on Tuesday.
Family members told BBC Persian that her whereabouts were unknown for 10 days before they found her body in a morgue in the capital.
Her aunt Atash Shahkarami said in an interview with BBC Persian on Friday that her niece left her home around 5pm local time on September 20 and that she was in contact with her until 7pm
The aunt said she was told by Shahkarami’s girlfriend that the teenager posted a story on Instagram of her burning her headscarf and that Shahkarami told her she was being followed by security agents.
After that, the family lost contact with Shahkarami, the aunt told BBC Persian. The family found her 10 days later in a morgue in a detention center in the capital.
“When we tried to identify her, they didn’t allow us to see her body, only her face for a few seconds,” Atash Shahkarami told BBC Persian.
The state-oriented Tasnim news agency said Shahkarami was found dead in the backyard of a house in Tehran on September 21. Tasnim said police observed surveillance footage of Shakarami entering an adjacent building and it remains unclear how she died. Tasnim said there was “no evidence” to support claims by “foreign media” that the teenager was killed by police.
The eight people arrested were workers at the building Shahkarami allegedly entered, Tasnim reported.
Tehran’s prosecutor Ali Salehi said a criminal criminal case had been opened and offered his condolences to Shahkarami’s family, state-run IRNA said.
CNN reached out to the family for comment.
Shahkarami’s death comes as nationwide protests take Iran by storm after in September Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died after being arrested by the country’s vice squad for clothing.
Girls and women across the country are protesting in schools and universities and on the streets. Social media videos show Iranian women and girls shouting “death to the dictator” and removing their mandatory headscarves, known as hijabs, in protest.
Anti-regime demonstrations have also made inroads Power bases of the Islamic Republic, including the Shiite holy cities of Mashhad and Qom. Ethnic minorities – notably Kurds in the country’s north and north-west and Baloch people in the south-east – have also staged protests and apparently suffered some of the most brutal crackdowns, with scores reportedly killed.
The Iranian authorities’ brutal crackdown on protesters has drawn the attention of the US, which is expected to impose new sanctions on law enforcement officials and those directly involved this week, a source familiar with the planned move told CNN.
President Joe Biden, who has acted quickly to throw his support behind protesters, issued a deliberately vague statement Monday promising further costs “for violent offenders against peaceful protesters.” A source told CNN that those costs are expected to materialize this week in the form of additional sanctions, which may be followed by further action.
On Tuesday afternoon, CNN saw girls at a vocational high school in Tehran protesting on a street near their school. They could be heard shouting “Woman, life, freedom” and “dignified Iranian support” as well as “Death to the dictator” – a popular chant heard at demonstrations across the country in recent days.
In a tribute to her niece posted to Instagram, Atash Shahkarami wrote: “May thousands and thousands of brave people be born from the deaths of brave people!