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Armita Geravand Fighting for Her Life

October 23, 2023
Roghayeh Rezaei
7 min read
Armita Geravand, the 16-year-old girl who fell into a coma on October 1 after being assaulted at a Tehran metro station for not wearing a headscarf, has been declared “brain dead” by doctors
Armita Geravand, the 16-year-old girl who fell into a coma on October 1 after being assaulted at a Tehran metro station for not wearing a headscarf, has been declared “brain dead” by doctors
The teenager’s coma was soon overshadowed in the news when Hamas launched its October 7 attack against Israel and in the resulting bombardment of the Gaza Strip
The teenager’s coma was soon overshadowed in the news when Hamas launched its October 7 attack against Israel and in the resulting bombardment of the Gaza Strip
Iranian filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui’s brutal October 14 murder, alongside his wife and in their home, also preoccupied many Iranian media outlets
Iranian filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui’s brutal October 14 murder, alongside his wife and in their home, also preoccupied many Iranian media outlets

Armita Geravand, the 16-year-old girl who fell into a coma on October 1 after being assaulted at a Tehran metro station for not wearing a headscarf, has been declared “brain dead” by doctors, according to Iranian media outlets and Armita’s family.

Reports indicated that Armita, who had boarded a metro train with two school friends, and whose headscarf was draped over her shoulders, was pushed by a woman wearing a full Islamic chador.

But the teenage girl in a coma was soon overshadowed in the news when Hamas launched its October 7 attack against Israel and in the ensuing bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Iranian filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui’s brutal October 14 murder, alongside his wife Vahideh Mohammadifar, and in their home, also preoccupied many Iranian media outlets. Mehrjui’s death reminded Iranians of the gruesome “Chain Murders” of intellectuals and dissidents in the 1990s during which Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, two opposition figures, were murdered in a similar manner.

But how did Armita’s hospitalization unfold while the world was looking the other way?

Before news of Armita’s “brain death” emerged, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights on October 19 reported that she remained in a coma and was being treated at Fajr Air Force Base Hospital. Armita’s parents had reportedly also been taken to the office of Delavar Alghasi-Mehr, a police commander in eastern Tehran province, where they were forced to sign documents pledging they would not file complaints against "any individual, organization, or entity."

On October 12, seven days earlier, Hengaw had reported that six doctors at Fajr Hospital told the family they had no hope Armita would recover. And reports circulating around October 11, by Hengaw and the journalist Farzad Seifikan, suggested that as early as two weeks ago Armita was already “brain dead.” Seifikan later changed his reporting to say that Armita still had brain activity at the time.

They Want Us to Forget Her

A civil activist in Iran has meanwhile told IranWire that, within the country, ordinary citizens have made numerous efforts on the streets to remember Armita’s situation amid the wider news landscape. The activist, whose identity is being withheld, said that in many parts of Tehran there is graffiti, placards and posters with pictures of Armita and the famed “Woman, Life, Freedom” slogan.

“The government is doing whatever it can to make us forget about Armita,” the activist said. “In fact, right now, poor Armita has been lost in all this news about deaths and bombardments and the quarrels between the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian opposition.”

The activist added that the government had learned lessons from the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police and the subsequent nationwide protests. Authorities have tried to prevent any information about Armita from leaking to avoid a fresh outbreak of protests.

“Even if I am accused of being a conspiracy theorist,” the activist added, “I must say that it is not impossible that one of their [the authorities’] motives for recent events, [allegedly] starting a war and killing Mehrjui and his wife, was to wipe Armita from our memories.”

Many Iranians have also noted that the brutal murder of Dariush Mehrjui and his wife do not seem like a standard crime – a burglary gone wrong or something similar.

Users of social media point to contradictory statements by the media to support this theory. Police officials first said the killer had been hired by Mehrjui’s brothers-in-law although a spokesman for the police later claimed the “primary murderer” had been arrested. Media reports said this suspect was – wait for it – the family’s gardener.

What Happened to Armita in Hospital?

A medical specialist in Tehran, who shall remain anonymous for their security, told IranWire: “No reliable information is available to reach a conclusion but, based on published videos, pictures and reports, one possibility is that Armita’s brainstem has been damaged as a result of being pushed or a physical impact. Damage to the brainstem immediately causes a person to experience a drop in vital signs and in functions such as breathing and the working of the heart. Because of this, [the victim] needs to be resuscitated in the first few seconds and, in the videos [from the scene] in the metro station, we can see that emergency personnel are trying to resuscitate her. The scenario could be accurate.”

The specialist added that videos show Armita “had completely lost consciousness in those few seconds and her GCS [Glasgow Coma Scale], or her level of consciousness, had fallen to 3 on the scale. The highest level is 15 and a score lower than 8 indicates a coma. The video also shows that emergency workers tried to resuscitate her – meaning that her heart had stopped. All this is guesswork, however, because the authorities have not allowed any information to be released.”

IranWire’s first report on Armita’s injury and hospitzaition noted that she “was brought to the hospital in a comatose state, with a code 99," meaning she needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation because she had ceased breathing or her heart had stopped. The source said Tehran’s emergency services had established that Armita suffered a "head trauma" after “falling from a level surface."

A specialist surgeon in Tehran who spoke with IranWire, however, also pointed to the bandages on Armita’s head and said: “On the other hand, in the picture from Armita in the hospital, we can see that the top of her head is bandaged and this can indicate that the damage and the hemorrhage has happened not to the brainstem but to a brain lobe such as the parietal or occipital lobe that can be more easily reached, and sometimes the blood can be extracted by drilling a hole.”

The surgeon added that, if the brainstem had been damaged, then the prognosis was likely to be poor and the possibility of death high. The situation would have been less severe if the damage or the hemorrhage had happened in an upper lateral side of the brain.

On October 11, government-affiliated media reported that Armita was in a critical situation. This, says this doctor, could be due to “secondary infections, such as lung infection, because she had been on a respirator for weeks which can interfere with all vital signs.”

Emphasizing that an accurate diagnosis is not possible in the absence of medical evidence, Dr. Yasser Qorashi, a pediatrician in the United States, told IranWire: “Based only on data from pictures and videos, I believe it is unlikely that her condition has improved. What is more, they would have made propaganda use of it if it had improved.”

The announcement that Armita is “brain dead” is unsurprising, moreover, given that she had been at GCS level 3 so soon after receiving her injury. Dr. Qorashi explained that “GCS is scaled from 3 to 15. A person with the GCS level of 15 is completely conscious while 3 means that person does not react to anything. Usually, a patient who is hospitalized with a GCS of 3 has little chance of returning to life, although there are always exceptions. However, when a patient goes into GCS level 3 so quickly, the chances of recovery are very low. Pictures from the metro station clearly show that they were giving CPR to Armita, which means that she had had a lengthy heart stoppage and, unfortunately, the chances of recovery in such a situation is very low.”

An Iranian researcher living in Sweden, Dr. Sahar Motallebi, also told IranWire that only “13 percent of cases with a GCS level of 3 recover after six months.”

Dr. Motallebi added that decisions over brain death would require more than just the GCS level. “We also need to examine medical images and measure brain activity by using the necessary equipment. Therefore, we cannot offer an opinion based only on the GCS level. … There are three clinical symptoms related to brain death: coma, absence of brainstem reflexes and apnea [cessation of breathing]. But, to legally confirm brain death, we must conduct imaging of the brain and analyze the functioning of the brain with the necessary equipment.”

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