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'Defendant Did Not Express Remorse': Suspicious Deaths of Young Protesters After Release from Prison

March 18, 2024
Roghiyeh Rezaei
7 min read
During the nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini's death in police custody in 2022, thousands of people were detained in Iran. Among them, dozens died under suspicious circumstances shortly after their release from prison
During the nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini's death in police custody in 2022, thousands of people were detained in Iran. Among them, dozens died under suspicious circumstances shortly after their release from prison

During the nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini's death in police custody in 2022, thousands of people were detained in Iran. Among them, dozens died under suspicious circumstances shortly after their release from prison.

While the Iranian media attributed some deaths to suicide, the mysteries surrounding others remain unresolved.

This report explores the stories of these young individuals, whose lives might have been spared had they not been incarcerated.

Yalda Aghafazli, 19

Yalda Aghafazli, a 19-year-old woman, became known by her steadfast declaration announced by the authorities: "The defendant did not express remorse."

During the Woman, Life, Freedom uprising, she emerged as a symbol of resistance for the younger generation.

Yalda was among the demonstrators detained on October 26, 2022, and held for approximately ten days in Qarchak prison in southern Tehran.

The Bidarzani legal group website, dedicated to reporting on women's rights violations, disclosed in a report on November 12, 2022, that Yalda took her own life and passed away at the Tehran Clinic hospital in northern Tehran.

On November 14, the Mehr news agency's report said that Yalda's family learned of her death around 3 am on November 11 and promptly contacted the police station and emergency services to report the incident.

This news agency dismissed the notion of Yalda's suicide following her release from prison.

Arshia Imam Gholizadeh, 16

Sixteen-year-old Arshia Iman Gholizadeh Alamdari was swept into the protests and arrested for allegedly throwing a cleric's turban in Hadishahr city, East Azerbaijan province.

After spending ten days in Tabriz Juvenile Prison, he was released on bail due to his father's persistent efforts. 

However, the teenager died by suicide after his release and was laid to rest on November 27, 2022.

Earlier, someone close to Arshiya's family had told IranWire that following his release, Arshia frequently broached the topic of death with his mother and expressed an inability to endure life.

Concerned about his wellbeing, Arshia's family sought psychiatric help. Just two days into the treatment regimen, he took her own life by ingesting a lethal concoction of drugs.

According to the family source, after his release, Arshia told his friends about his harrowing prison experience—nightly doses of pills administered by guards, occasional acts of torture, and beatings with batons.

Maryam Arvin, 29

Maryam Arvin, aged 29, was a practicing lawyer. Her mother, Taiba Nazari, told her daughter's story in a note published on her Instagram account in June 2023.

In a poignant message, Taiba revealed that Maryam willingly took on cases of marginalized people, including underprivileged and working children.

According to the mother, Maryam had been married for less than two months when she died.

Maryam was a valued member of the Kerman Province Bar Association.

On November 30, 2022, while defending her clients, who were among the detained protesters of Kerman province, she was apprehended at the prosecutor's office in Sirjan.

Officers also arrested her mother, who had gone to inquire about her daughter's wellbeing.

Though released on bail on December 12, 2022, Maryam's court verdict was pending issuance in the subsequent days.

However, she met her demise under suspicious circumstances ahead of the verdict. According to Taiba, the events during Maryam's detention and the trauma she endured in prison contributed to her untimely death.

Milad (Arash) Forouzandeh, 33

Arash Forouzandeh, a protester from Abadan, made headlines in March 2023 due to his suspicious death shortly after his release from a detention center.

According to information obtained by IranWire, Forouzandeh succumbed to poisoning after consuming water from a bottle provided to him during interrogations.

The content shared on Forouzandeh's Instagram account reveals that he actively participated in the nationwide protests. He also offered analytical insights into formulating protest strategies.

Soran Mansoornia, brother of Burhan Mansoornia, a victim of the crackdown on the November 2019 protests, corroborated on his social media pages that he was acquainted with Forouzandeh and had discussed "calls and rallies" with him.

Mazdak Marianeh Hamdeni, 16

Mazdak Marianeh Hamdani, a 16-year-old, was apprehended during the Woman, Life, Freedom protests in northern Rasht under the accusation of "assaulting a police officer." He met with a "suspicious" death a few months post-release.

Iran's Teachers' Union in March 2023 announced the news of Mazdak's death. The union noted that despite his underage status, he was incarcerated in the adult prison of Lakan Rasht and subjected to severe interrogation, as evident from the visible bruises on his face.

According to reports, the circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear. However, it is noted that "authorities barred Mazdak's friends from attending his funeral proceedings and even entering the village."

Shahab Hashemi

Shahab Hashemi, a student at Allameh Tabatabai University in Tehran, died on December 7, 2022.

Following his death, Allameh Tabatabai University issued a statement labeling it as "suicide."

However, a few days later, Shahab's brother, Mehdi Hashemi, took to his Instagram account to denounce the university's assertion, describing it as "tainted with falsehoods and slander."

He vehemently disavowed his brother's death being a "suicide" as announced by legal authorities and instead deemed it a "suspicious murder."

On December 7, 2022, Shahab's lifeless body was discovered hanging in the dormitory of the university.

The Student Union Council had previously reported that before the discovery of Hashemi's body, there had been no communication from him for several days, and his friends were unable to reach him.

It is speculated that Shahab might have been arrested around the same time as widespread calls were given for student gatherings during that December.

Abbas Mansouri, 18

According to the Atlas of Prisons of Iran, Abbas Mansouri, an 18-year-old protester, was apprehended on November 17, 2022, in Shush city of Khuzestan province, along with several other demonstrators.

His arrest stemmed from his involvement in distributing chocolate adorned with the slogan Woman, Life, Freedom in a campaign known as the "chocolate fist challenge."

He was released from custody on December 6, 2022, but died less than a week later.

A report published by the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization revealed that following his release, Abbas displayed signs of distress and exhibited abnormal behavior.

Sources in the know of the situation told the human rights organization that the teenager disclosed to his family about being administered pills two days before his release and being given multiple injections in detention.

Mohsen Jafari Rad, 36

Mohsen Jafari Rad, a film critic and aspiring director, died in his home in Karaj on the morning of January 8, 2023.

Simultaneously, Hoshang Golmakani, the director of Film Emrooz magazine, said on his Instagram that Mohsen had been arrested a few weeks prior during protests in Karaj. He labeled Mohsen's death as "suicide."

While Golmakani later deleted his Instagram post, he had said in that post that the director had ended his life by ingesting pills.

Mansoureh Sagvand

Mansoureh Sagvand, a young student from Abdanan in Ilam province, was purportedly regarded as an "honorary member" and "assistant police officer" within the police force in Khorram Abad of Lorestan.

The 1500 Tasvir activist account reported threats to her life by security forces before her death. Besides, the Dadban legal group shared a screenshot of her last Instagram posts, dated June 4, 2022.

These posts were made mere hours after she disclosed the threats to her life, and then, her death occurred under suspicious circumstances.

According to certain accounts, Mansoureh resigned from the police force and aligned herself with the protesting populace. Some news sources said that she was subsequently detained.

Dadban also noted, "Medical officials of Ilam Province declared Mansoureh's cause of death as cardiac arrest despite the absence of any underlying medical condition."

Additionally, Dadban referenced a message she had previously sent to a friend, stating, "I am consistently facing death threats from intelligence. If anything happens to me, I want everyone to know that I did not take my own life."

Amir Hossein Tarval Iman

Maryam Kian-Ersi, a lawyer, took to her social media account on May 17, 2023, to share the news about her teenage client, Amir Hossein Tarval Iman.

She revealed that after approximately eight months of detention, Amir Hossein was granted amnesty and released following a court hearing.

However, just a few days later, he died in his sleep due to a heart attack.

Earlier, the Committee to Follow Up on the Status of Detainees had reported that a young protester named Amir Hossein Tarval Iman was arrested on October 24, 2022, after government agents attacked his home in Tehran's Aliabad district.

He faced interrogation and torture during his detention. Initially charged with "waging war against God," Amir Hossein was temporarily released on bail, only to "suspiciously" die ten days later on May 17, 2023.

Mehdi Sadeghi, 25

Mehdi Sadeghi, a young protester from western Ilam, purportedly died by suicide following his release from prison, as reported by Hengaw Human Rights Organization. 

According to Hengaw's account, the 25-year-old individual traveled from Ilam to Tehran on July 1, 2023, less than two weeks after completing a six-month prison sentence, and he "ended his life" in the capital city.

Mehdi was arrested in October 2022 during protests in Ilam. He was subsequently sentenced to six months in prison, 74 lashes, and a two-year ban on leaving the country on charges of "disturbing public order."


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