Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Mina Sheikhi

About

Age: 59
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Sunni)
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: November 16, 2019
Location of Killing: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Arbitrary execution
Charges: Unknown charge
Age at time of offense: 59

About this Case

Mrs. Sheikhi was outraged by security forces' shooting at protestors: "Shame on you why are you killing people's children?

Information regarding the death of Ms. Mina (Dadeh  Mina) Sheikhi, child of Nosrat and Mohammad Gharib, was obtained through interviews conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center (ABC) with persons who knew her. (December 7, 2019, and July 15, 2020). Additional information about this murder was collected from the websites of Ensaf News (June 20, 2020); Khabar Online (June 8, 2020); HRANA News Agency, the news arm of Human Rights Activists in Iran (December 3, 2019); IRNA, Islamic Republic News Agency (December 31, 2019); Kurdistan Human Rights Network (December 5, and 27, 2019); Radio Zamaneh (December 9, 2019); and Ms. Sheikhi’s death certificate issued by the town of Saqqez Personal Particulars Registry Organization (November 21, 2019).

Ms. Sheikhi was the second child of a well-known political family in the town of Saqqez. According to persons close to her, “Mina was a joyful, exuberant, and sprightly woman and was the most courageous, fearless, and playful among people in her age group, and she had one particular feature that she lived with until the very end. She always had a smile on her face, and was kind and empathetic.” (ABC interview). She had an elementary school education. After her mother’s death, the responsibility of taking care of her brothers and sisters fell on Mina’s shoulders. She got married in 1978-79. She had 4 sons and 2 daughters. After her husband died in an automobile accident in 1988-89, she raised them all by herself. She did not remarry after her husband’s death.

Ms. Sheikhi had no illnesses and was of completely sound mind and healthy intellect. She loved recreational activities, travelling, mountains, plains, and nature. She lived in Tehran because of her children’s work conditions.

Background

Right before midnight on November 14, 2019, the Iranian government announced a sharp increase in the price of gasoline (a 50% increase for rationed gasoline, and a 200% increase for regular gasoline). Following the government’s announcement, nationwide protests began on November 15. According to available reports and videos, the protesters gathered peacefully in public places on November 15 and 16, and caused very heavy traffic by blocking a number of streets. The protesters also chanted anti-governments slogans. Protesters across the country were asking their compatriots to turn their cars off and chant anti-regime slogans (1). According to reports, by the end of the day on November 16, banks had been set on fire in certain regions. Gunshots can be heard in some videos. That same night, the government blocked internet access in the entire country for at least ten days. Lack of access to information severely diminished the protesters ability to organize protests and report on the regime’s brutal and ruthless clampdown of the demonstrators (2).

The reaction of the Iranian authorities was swift, disproportionate, extreme, and deadly. From the very early days of the protests, that is, by November 16, the leaders of the Islamic Republic started to put the blame on the people in their public statements, and demonstrated that they would not tolerate any dissent or expression of discontent. The protesters were accused of being “hoodlums” and “in contact with forces outside the country”, and were warned that they would suffer grave punishment if they damaged public property. News of the first casualty was reported on November 15. On the second day of the protests, the number of the dead increased as police and security forces continued to open fire on the populace in several cities. In video footage received from Iran, police and security forces can be seen firing their weapons into the demonstrators in circumstances where it does not appear that their lives are in danger. Plainclothes forces can also be seen beating people with clubs and arresting them. In certain cases, demonstrators blocked roads or gathered in front of police precincts or other government buildings, or pushed police and security forces back by throwing rocks. In several provinces, banks and other public buildings were set ablaze, seemingly by angry protesters, and the police can be seen damaging public property in some videos. The protests, which had spread to dozens of towns (120), roads, and locations outside urban areas, were quashed within a few days.

The then-Minister of the Interior implicitly declared the number of dead to have been between 200 and 250 people. According to him, “about 40 or 45 individuals, that is, approximately 20 percent of those killed, were killed with weapons that were not government issue.” (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s Television Network One, May 31, 2020). The exact number of casualties is not clear at the time of this writing. In most cases, government agents took the dead and wounded protesters away. In an effort to hide the truth, these officials obtained written pledges from the victims’ families that the would remain silent in return for the bodies of their loved ones, and even forced some of them to bury their dead at night under the veil of darkness, and under the control and watchful eye of security agents. Others were asked for various sums of money. In its latest report published on May 20, 2020, Amnesty International announced the number of dead to have been at least 304 (3). A large number of the demonstrators had been shot in the head and chest. Hundreds of others were wounded, and the fate of many is unknown. The Iranian government confirmed the death of 6 members of the police and security forces. On May 31, 2020, the Interior Minister declared the number of people killed in the November protests to have been between 200 and 225, 20 percent of whom were shot by non-governmental bullets (4). On June 1, 2020, the Head of Majless’ (“Parliament”) National Security Commission declared the number of people killed in the protests against the increase in the price of gas to have been 230, including members of the police and security forces (5). According to a Majless Representative, at least 7000 people were arrested during and after the protests. Lack of transparency regarding the arrests, official reports of the “confessions” of those arrested following the protests where they acknowledged their responsibility and guilt, in addition to reports of the overcrowding of prisons and detention centers way beyond their capacity, caused very serious concerns about the safety and the security of the detainees.

Mr. Sheikhi’s Death

According to available information, at 9 PM on the night of November 16, 2020, Ms. Sheikhi was shot three times by plainclothes agents in the heart and the left side of her chest, at the Khalij-e Fars (“Persian Gulf”) neighborhood located in the southwest of Tehran. She was severely wounded, and ultimately died at Tehran’s Fayazbakhsh Hospital due to the severity of her injuries.

On that day, Ms. Sheikhi was busy cooking food while the streets surrounding the apartment building where she resided were crowded because of the protests. She had gone to the rooftop several times because of all the noise and come back to her home. Approximately 20 residents of the apartment building had gathered on the rooftop. They were trying to inform the protestors of the presence of the Special Unit forces. The account is that Ms. Sheikhi was standing in the back rows of the residents on the roof top. According to the interviewee; however, “ the residents had gone to the rooftop because of all the noise and commotion caused by the crowds, the destruction of banks and of the fences in the streets, and the attack by government forces on the crowd of people. They saw that security agents and the police force had attacked and were beating the people with the utmost savagery and cruelty. Ms. Sheikhi yelled at the forces from the rooftop and said: ‘Shame on you. Why are you beating [these people], this is somebody’s child you’re beating up. Why don’t you get lost and be gone, you cowards! Look what conditions you’ve created for the people. The Islamic Republic has gone wild like a rabid dog. What have the people done [to deserve this], you dishonorable cowards?’”. In those very moments, Ms. Sheikhi who had her hand on her heart, called out for her children in a loud voice. It was initially thought that she had had a heart attack because of the shootings and the chaos on the streets below. Her children quickly took her to the hospital, but even they had not realized that she had been shot. Their car was stopped several times by the police. Her children explained that their mother had had a heart attack and were thus able to get through the stops and get her to the hospital.

According to people who were present at the site of the event, Ms. Sheikhi’s must have been shot from another rooftop by sharpshooters, and [these witnesses] believed that she was singled out because she was wearing traditional Kurdish clothes and was shot on purpose for that reason.

On January 15, Ms. Sheikhi’s body was taken to Fayazbakhsh Hospital’s morgue. According to hospital personnel, that same night, the Revolutionary Guards’ security and protective forces took the bodies of the dead out of the hospital at 2 o’clock in the morning and turned them over to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Officials’ Reaction

According to available information, the officials refused to turn Ms. Sheikhi’s body over to her family at first. In the death certificate issued by the Saqqez Personal Particulars Registry Organization, Ms. Sheikhi’s cause of death has been stated as “blunt force trauma or force from sharp objects”, the place of death is stated as Tehran, and the date of death as November 17, 2019. (Death Certificate, November 21, 2019).

Three days later, on January 18, 2020, and in the presence of the Prosecutor at the Medical Examiner’s Office, the family was given the authorization to take Ms. Sheikhi’s body to Saqqez, but only after several written pledges were given by Ms. Sheikhi’s family to the effect that they would not hold services, and that the burial, and services for the Third, Seventh, and Fortieth day of passing [in accordance with tradition] would be held with the authorization of security forces, (ABC interview). The authorities sent Ms. Sheikhi’s body to the town of Saqqez in an ambulance and the driver was told to deliver the body to Information forces in Saqqez. Ms. Sheikhi’s family accompanied the ambulance in their respective cars and arrived at Saqqez. Saqqez Information agents contacted them several times, asking how many people were accompanying the body. Around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning of Saturday, January 18, 2020, Ms. Sheikhi was buried in the dark of night at Aychi Cemetery due to prohibitions by the agents, even though they had announced in their obituary that services would be held for her the next day and that she would be interred in Golestan Cemetery next to her brother.

In order to put pressure on her family, one day prior to her burial, law enforcement personnel took Ms. Sheikhi’s niece and nephew into custody as they were putting up announcements detailing the time and date of her burial and funeral services, beating them, and effectively taking them hostage. At Police Precinct 11, the officers continued to beat them, and forced them to make incriminating statements against themselves to the effect that the announcements were not notices of burial and funeral services but a call to action for an [illegal] gathering. They were then released upon signing a written pledge [to refrain from certain actions].

Familys’ Reaction

Ms. Sheikhi’s family believes that her death was not an accident but was intentional murder “because it was done through directly shooting at her and with the intention to kill. There were 23 other individuals at the hospital who had been killed that same night, and, according to the hospital personnel, they had all been shot in the heart or the head. There were no wounded people, [only people who had been shot dead].” (ABC interview). It must be noted that Ms. Shekhi’s funeral announcement said that “she had lost her life in a sudden accident”. According to a person close to Ms. Sheikhi, “since Ms. Sheikhi died on the rooftop and not among the protestors [in the street], there has been an effort by her family to avoid the case being considered as that of a protestor. The goal of this effort is to avoid future problems for her children. The family is trying to prove that she was innocent and that she had not participated in the recent protests, because as we can see, the authorities justify killing protestors and other individuals by labelling them as ‘rioters’ who had participated in [illegal] demonstrations”. (ABC interview). The family is demanding a hearing of the complaint they have lodged in connection with Ms. Sheikhi’s killing.

Impacts on Family

According to available information, Ms. Sheikhi’s brothers and sisters have fallen apart emotionally after her death because she was like a mother to the entire family. According to a person close to her, “her humble home was a refuge for everyone. Dadeh Mina was always ready to lend an ear to everybody’s problems. Because the family’s father was old, Dadeh Mina was also a father figure”. (ABC interview). Ms. Sheikhi’s father passed away a short while after her death. “Dadeh Mina’s death undoubtedly had an effect in shortening the life her father. Dadeh Mina had no psychological or physical issues before she was killed.” (ABC interview).

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(1)    The slogans included: “People, why are you sitting still, you are your own saviors,” “What a mistake we made, when we had a revolution,” “Reza Shah, may your soul be content,” “Death to the Dictator,” “We will have our rights [and justice], we will not be debased and belittled,” “oil money has disappeared, it was spent on Palestine,” “Khamenei beware: we are people, not hoodlums.”
(2)   Access to internet was re-established to a certain extent in most provinces (with the exception of Khuzestan Province and Sistan and Baluchestan Province); however, citizens did not have access to the worldwide web through their cell phones until early December. During that time, communications were established through phone services and the national internet, which was more easily controlled by the regime.
(3)   Amnesty International Report, “Iran: Details of 304 Deaths in Crackdown on November 2019 Protests”, May 20, 2020.
https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE1323082020ENGLISH.PDF
(4)   IRNA, “The Interior Minister: The Number of Deaths in November 2019 Will be Announced in the Coming Days”, May 31, 2020.
www.irna.ir/news/83805499
(5)   ISNA, “The Number of Deaths in the November Events in Iran was 230, and 2000 Wounded”, June 1, 2020.
https://www.isna.ir/news/99031207389

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