Kian Pirfalak, a nine-year-old boy in Izeh, Iran’s Khuzestan province, aspired to become a robotics engineer and inventor before he was killed by bullets fired by Islamic Republic security forces on November 16, 2022. He would have been 10 years old this past Sunday June 11. With his death, Iran lost a talented and bright child with a bright future and who already had grans plans to contribute to the intellectual wealth of his country.
And in a shocking, perverse turn, security forces killed Kian’s mother’s cousin on the date of the young boy’s birthday. Security forces had already threatened Kian’s family ahead of the birthday, saying that they would kill Kian’s mother and younger brother, if they used the occasion to celebrate his life and to mark his death.
Kian Pirfalak was in his family’s car on November 16, returning home with his parents and younger brother, when he was shot dead by Iranian agents. He was buried two days later, on Friday, November 18, as a large gathering people of Izeh chanted slogans against the Islamic Republic and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“Kian was ambitious and loved to hear stories and read books,” says Narges, a friend of the family. “He was fond of Harry Potter and had perhaps watched the movie more than 10 times. He was also very fond of animals, professional chess, taekwondo, karate and playing darts.”
A Soaring Imagination
Kian was no ordinary child: nor was his mother Mahmonir an ordinary woman and mother. “Kian loved animals,” says Narges. “If they bought him a duckling or a bird, and if it later died, he would become sentimental and felt horrible. He was so gentle and, until he was almost seven or eight years old, he spoke with a delicate kindness. He talked so kindly and treated both animals and people with so much feeling that kids said he should have been a girl,” Narges says.
“Kian had a soaring imagination. The reason for this was the stories that his mother told him. Mahmonir, who had an artistic talent from childhood, told Kian many stories but, unlike most mothers, these were not run-of-the-mill stories. Her stories were a blend of reality and imagination, stories about galaxies and astronauts, the lives of dinosaurs, mythological creatures and space aliens,” she added.
Kian’s was always engrossed by these stories, the family friend said, and remembered every detail of how they began, unfolded and ended.
When Kian turned seven, Mahmonir decided that her fictions were not enough for her son so she put together a library for him, from books about space aliens and sea creatures, to stars, galaxies, great scientists and anything else she could imagine.
In the last year of his life, says Narges, Kian and her mother read all the stories of Scheherazadeh [the 1,001 or “Arabian” nights], of the genie and the magic lantern and most of the stories of the Shahnameh [the Persian Book of Kings], the national epic of Iran, composed by Ferdowsi more than a 1,000 years ago. The last story that Mahmonir was reading from the Shahnameh to Kian was the legend of Zahak, the Serpent King, an evil figure in Persian mythology. But Kian was not destined to hear the end of the story: “The night before he was killed, Kian fell sleep as Mahmonir was reading the story. In the morning, when Kian woke up, he asked ‘Mom, what happened to Zahak?’ and Mahmonir told him ‘I will read it to you tonight.’ But it was not to be.”
Painting and Simulating Electronics Circuits
According to Narges, Kian had installed Edison, a multimedia application for simulating and understanding electronic circuits, on his mother’s laptop and enjoyed playing with it.
He was usually dynamic and playful but, in the last months of his life he often went to his room, closed the door and made handicrafts or painted. When he went to school on the same fateful day of November 16, his clothes was covered in paint. Quoting his mother, Narges says that Kian’s teacher asked his mother “Why does Kian make himself so dirty?” and Mahmonir had answered “Because he loves to cover himself in colors.”
In his last month, Kian was continuously painting, even though Mahmonir had never taught him how to paint. “I don’t remember ever painting something for Kian and he never asked me to draw him something,” Mahmonir told Narges. “Every few days he would ask for a new sketchpad.”
Mahmonir is a high school teacher of photography, painting and graphics, and did some work for the Shad (“Happy”) software that was launched by the Ministry of Education for remote learning during the pandemic.
On the day of his burial, they had brought Kian’s bag to the burial site and her mother opened it during the ceremonies. Even though she had seen Kian painting, when Mahmonir saw his sketchpad she said: “I wish I had seen these earlier, not after he is gone, especially the last painting, which was of the angel of death.”
His Mother’s Best Friend
“Kian was my best friend and I never got bored when he was around because we always had something to talk about,” Mahmonir told Narges. “As Kian put it, we got ‘rid of’ Radin [Kian’s younger brother] by sending him somewhere with his dad so we could watch television together and eat something. He enjoyed being with his mother and that is why we sent those two to a coffee shop or the park.”
“There are things in life that you miss very badly,” Mahmonir also said to Narges. “There were things that we wished to do together and places to go together but there was no time. Either I was working or Kian was at school. We spent a lot of time together but I think we would have wanted more even if we spent 100 years together. I lost my best friend and this is very painful.”
“Mahmonir’s great regret concerns the two months before Kian was killed, because she was really feeling very bad due to what was happening during the protests and for the people who were killed,” says Narges. “’I could not take good care of my life and I didn’t know what to do,’ she said at the time. ‘It seemed as though something was going to happen to me, myself, as well.’”
“Anxiety, worries and fears about the future of our children had gripped me even though we had not participated in the protests,” Mahmonir told Narges. “Kian was the red line of my life.”
After giving birth to Kian, Mahmonir was given a wrong dose of medication and was near death. “I wish I had died and did not have to witness this day,” Mahmonir told her friends, speaking of Kian’s death. “Perhaps I should not have fought to stay alive.”
Narges says that Mahmonir does not like to see sorrow on the faces of people when she talks about Kian. “I know that Kian is gone but I neither believed it nor do I want to believe it,” Mahmonir says. “When I say the name of Kian and people show sorrow, it is as though they are telling me that Kian no longer exists, and this is very painful. Kian is everywhere.”
After Kian was killed, his family left the home where they were tenants. Their furniture and household items are now scattered in the homes of their relatives and Mahmonir, Kian’s father Meysam and his younger brother live at the home of Meysam’s mother in a village near Izeh. “We are near Kian because he is buried near this village, a kilometer away from Meysam’s parental home,” Mahmonir tells people.
Kian loved martial arts and preferred taekwondo and karate to bicycling and football. He had registered for a taekwondo class but, after one session, the pandemic shut down classes and Kian never had a chance to practice it again. Nevertheless, he played football excellently and was a good goalkeeper. He loved to play darts too. Like most other young boys, he was a fan of Lionel Messi, but his favorite football team was Dortmund. He was not a big fan of Iranian football but he liked Persepolis FC because this team had always been a champion since Kian was born.
His Mother’s Wish
Kian was serious about studying robotics. Narges says there are few robotics classes and workshops in Izeh, as a small town, but there are many talented children in the city. Mahmonir hopes to see a robotics center named after Kian open one day in Izeh – so that children can learn robotics in a workshop that carries Kian’s name and even attend under his name at competitions and festivals. And, as it happens, one of Kian’s teachers has plans to establish just such a place. A final birthday gift to the young and slain Kian Pirfalak.