What really happened to Nika Shahkarami? Witnesses to her final hours cast doubt on Iran’s story


An Iranian girl in black stands on top of an overturned garbage can, waving her headscarf passionately and shouting “death to the dictator.”

Moments later, in the video, he bends down to pick up another scarf from his friend and burns it in front of the protesters.

The girl was 16-year-old Nika Shahkarami from Tehran. Nika went missing hours after the sightings were captured on September 20 in videos obtained and verified by CNN. More than a week later, his family learned that he had died.

Iranian authorities confirmed that Nika’s body was found in the morning of September 21 behind the courtyard. His mother was not allowed to identify him until 8 days later. After midnight on the night of September 20-21, CCTV footage released by the authorities shows the figure of a masked man entering an uninhabited building in Tehran that is under construction.

A Tehran prosecutor initially said he died after being thrown from the building’s roof and that his death had “nothing to do with that day’s protests,” but did not say whether there were any suspects, although he ruled his death a homicide. under investigation. State broadcasters reported that he “fell down”, but did not provide evidence to suggest it was an accident.

After CNN asked the government to comment on the evidence in the investigation on Wednesday, Iranian media cited a Tehran prosecutor as saying Nika’s death was a suicide. Iranian authorities have yet to respond to CNN’s repeated inquiries about Nika’s death

Authorities never explained why Nika would enter the building on her own, and Nika’s mother said she did not believe the masked man was Nika. Her mother believes Nika was killed by authorities, but authorities have never said if Nika was ever in their custody.

But dozens of videos and eyewitness accounts obtained exclusively by CNN show that Nika was chased down and captured by Iranian security forces that night. One of the key witnesses, Ladan, told CNN that he saw Nika being grabbed by “several burly plainclothes security officers” and put into a car.

A little while ago, this witness was stuck in a Tehran traffic jam and recorded a video showing Shahkarami slumped against the back of a white car and shouting “tekon nakon, tekon nakon”. before fleeing the brief shelter the driver gave him.

Seven people who knew Nika and spoke to CNN confirmed it was her. The same footage taken at 20:37 on September 20 shows police officers patrolling the area on motorcycles.

“I wanted to save him, but I couldn’t,” says Ladan. “There were 20 or 30 Basijis riding motorcycles on the sidewalk,” he said, using the local name for the paramilitary group at the forefront of the state’s crackdown on the protesters.

– Shahkarami was throwing stones at them. I was scared, even walking past her, “Be careful, honey!” I said. Because several plainclothes police officers were looking for him on the streets.

“They got him fifty yards ahead,” Ladan added.

Ladan contacted CNN after realizing that the teenager he filmed and talked to was the same teenager who was reported dead a few days later. CNN, with the help of the activist group 1500Images, spoke only to a few witnesses who took part in the protests in Tehran on September 20.

Other videos, including one of a scarf being burned, are evidence of Nika fearlessly shouting and throwing stones at the beginning of the protests, before the harassment began, according to several witnesses.

Witnesses said that would have made him a target for security forces, including members of Iran’s dreaded Basij militia, as they began descending on Keshavarz Boulevard and around Tehran University, where most of the protesters had gathered that evening.

“I remember his courage because he would climb into the dumpster and not get off. He also burned his scarf on his head,” said Najmeh, who was with Nika at the demonstration.

CNN is using pseudonyms for all witnesses cited in this investigation because of concerns about their safety.

Students gathered near Laleh Park between 5pm and 6pm on September 20 to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in state custody last month after being detained by the country’s morality police. because of how he is dressed.

In recent weeks, a scene has become commonplace in Tehran: young people, mostly women, chanting “death to the dictator”, burning scarves and throwing rocks at security forces.

At one point, a garbage can was brought and overturned to block the road. It can be seen in the video that Nika jumped to the top along with several other people.

“He burned his headscarf and waved. I told him not to wave because you can burn yourself, hold on until it burns,” said Nima, who also participated in the protest and witnessed the development of the incident. Then he took the scarves of his two friends who were with him and burned them as well,” he said.

In other videos that were geolocated that evening and confirmed by CNN, Nika was seen throwing rocks at police forces against riot police. He was carrying a distinctive CAT backpack and wearing a black mask and hat. Sounds like gunshots are heard.

Eyewitnesses said that from 19:00 to 20:00 the actions of the security forces intensified. “They fired tear gas and pellets and arrested the protesters. “Almost all of us faced them and ran away,” said another witness, Reza.

As anti-riot police and Basij forces filled the streets, protesters began to move in all directions to avoid pursuit.

Another witness, Dina, who spent part of the protest walking next to Nika, told CNN that she saw Nika in front of a gas station not far from Tehran University. . Others managed to film the arrests by plainclothes officers.

Reza added: “I saw with my own eyes the security forces beating the women with sticks, and they grabbed many of them and took them to the police van.

In this context of a severe crackdown on the protest, Nika was last seen by witnesses who spoke to CNN, and another nine days passed before her family was officially informed of her whereabouts. The latest eyewitness footage, verified and geolocated by CNN and shown live to CNN, shows the girl surrounded by security forces on three sides.

“I think Nika got stuck that night when we were running away. Because he was very young,” said Dina.

Nika Shahkarami is seen in a photo posted on Twitter by Atash Shahkarami.

While the Iranian authorities claim that Nika died under the uninhabited building, her mother, Nasreen, said in an October 10 interview with the independent Iranian newspaper Etemad that she believes her daughter “took part in the rallies and was killed there.”

Iranian security forces arrested eight people who were workers at a building that broke into Nika hours after witnesses saw it during protests on September 20, state news agency Tasnim reported on October 4. Prosecutor of Tehran Ali Salehi said that a criminal case has been initiated. started and offered condolences to Nika’s family, state news agency IRNA reported.

Mohammad Shahriari, the head of criminal prosecution of Tehran province, said that Nika’s injuries were due to a “fall” at first. According to the results of the autopsy, there were broken parts of the pelvis, head, upper and lower legs, arms, and body. feet and hips, said Tasnim.

He added that “the investigation showed that this incident had nothing to do with the rallies.” No bullet holes were found in the body.”

CNN has repeatedly asked Iranian authorities for comment on Nika’s arrest during demonstrations that night and other women being assaulted and placed in police cars. CNN also asked Tehran’s prosecutor’s office about the status of the criminal investigation into Nika’s death. No response was received by the time this story was published.

On Wednesday, Mizan, an online publication linked to Iran’s judiciary, said Nika’s death was a suicide.

However, the death certificate, first seen by BBC Percy and confirmed by CNN, says Shahkarami died of multiple blunt force trauma.

In an interview with Etemad, Nasrin said that on the day of her disappearance, she spoke to Shahkarami on the phone many times. Background noise during the calls indicated that he and other protesters were running away from security forces, Nasreen added. |

According to Nasrin, Nika named several places where he had been – Engelab Square, Keshavarz Boulevard and Valiasr Street – which matched the videos geolocated by CNN.

Nasreen revealed that the last time she spoke to her daughter was before midnight, after which all her attempts to call Nika were switched off. According to Nika’s aunt and several protesters who spoke to CNN, Nika’s Instagram and Telegram accounts have been deleted.

For several days, his family said they visited police stations, prisons and hospitals in search of traces of him, but to no avail. Finally, on September 30, Nika’s mother and brother asked for Nika’s body to be identified, he told BBC Percy. |

Nasreen told Farda Radio on October 6 that while he was searching for Nika with family members, a man gave him Nika’s national ID number and said, “The IPC has taken her.” , they wanted to interrogate him gradually.”

This coincides with Shahkarami’s aunt Atash. BBC reported soon he disappeared. “An unofficial source of the IPC contacted me and said that this child was in our hands a week ago, and after we finished the interrogation and the case file, 1-2 days ago (he) was transferred to another place. Evin prison, Atash said.

Atash and Nika’s brother, Mohsen, was later arrested by Iranian security forces and forced to make a false statement, BBC Persian reported, citing a source close to the family. When contacted by CNN after the BBC report, Atash asked not to be contacted again, citing security concerns.

As the family searches for answers, people who were by Nika’s side that day also deny her death.

“The situation was very dangerous and everyone thought of running away,” said Dina. “I cannot forgive myself for Nika’s death. He was a boy.’


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