"Our dear loved one is gone; no matter what you write, what you say. Blood money cannot return her. We can do nothing to return her, but I hope that those who have killed our loved one will be identified and punished."
These are the words of a relative of Golnar Samsami, 34, who was shot on November 17 in Valiasr Avenue in Shahriar and died at Sajjad Hospital a few hours later. The relative gave her name as Faezeh, but said she was adopting a pseudonym out of concerns for her safety.
Samsami was an employee at a private laboratory in Shahriar and the mother of an eight-year-old boy named Roham. Initial reports said she was expecting another child at the time of her death, but it was later confirmed that this was not true.
“She lived in Fardis, in Karaj, and she went to Shahriar every day. On Saturday, November 16, she had seen the protests and decided not to drive to work on Sunday. Around noon on Sunday, the laboratory doctor called her and said that due to the protests and crowds, he was unable to travel from Tehran to Shahriar and that it was better to close the laboratory."
According to Faezeh, Samsami came out of Rudaki Alley after locking up and leaving work. She stood under the sign for the laboratory at the intersection of the alley and Beheshti Sharqi Avenue, waiting for a taxi.
”She and one of her friends were waiting for the taxi on the side of the street when Golnar was hit by a bullet and fell,” Faezeh says. “As the bullet struck Golnar's head, it was clear that the gunman shot and fired at her from a tall building on the same street overlooking Golnar's location."
Samsami fell to the ground after being shot – and was later pronounced dead.
A video of Samsami falling, bleeding profusely, and a woman next to her asking for help, has been shared online. In the footage, people can be running towards Samsari and her colleague and friend, one saying, "There is a bullet hole in her head, she will die.”
"We don't know who took the video," Faezeh says. "In the video, Golnar's coworker screams and shouts at the person close to her. Golnar's colleague calls her family at the same time and reports that Golnar has been shot and is being taken to Sajjad Hospital. The family gets to the hospital a few minutes later. Golnar was hospitalized in the emergency room for several hours until an operating room became available. In the operating room, they operated to remove the bullet and then transferred her to intensive care. Golnar died an hour after being transferred to the ICU, around 6pm on Sunday."
Samsami’s family wanted to take her body to the Behesht Rezvan cemetery in Shahriar for washing and burial. But when they tried to retrieve her remains from the hospital at 9pm that evening, they were told that the body had been taken to the Kahrizak morgue.
"Her body was taken to Kahrizak because they assumed that Golnar took part in the protests,” Faezeh says, referring to the nationwide November protests sparked by rising fuel prices.
“It took a few days to finally receive her body. Golnar's body was in Kahrizak from Sunday to Thursday. After some correspondence and follow-ups, they agreed on Wednesday to deliver the remains, but it was late in the afternoon and we couldn't bury her then. So the delivery of her body was postponed to Thursday, November 21. Apparently on Monday and Tuesday [the authorities] did not deliver any of remains to families because of the ongoing protests."
Samsani's family filed a complaint at the Shahriar prosecutor's office between the time of her death and the delivery of her body.
“We do not know who fired at Golnar. On the CT scan, we saw that her brain was destroyed, and the bullet was lodged inside the brain. They have the bullet ... they may be able to identify what kind of weapon was fired and who had such a weapon.”
"You Can't Fix this with Money"
Faezeh says the authorities did not impose any restrictions on the funeral ceremony, though such restrictions have been placed on other families whose loved ones have been killed during protests. "They asked for no special commitment from us, and there was no problem with the funeral ceremony, announcements, or banners. Of course, there were agents at the ceremony, but I think they had come to console us."
Authorities have announced that some of the dead will be declared martyrs and their families will be paid blood money – an Iranian custom used as a form of compensation.
Faezeh says the Samsami family considers their daughter a martyr even if she is not declared so by the authorities.
“So far, no contact has been made with Golnar's family and no suggestion has been made in this regard. The police station officer, the leader of Friday prayers, and the Shahriar prosecutor went to Faezeh's parents' house to express their sympathy, but there was no word about [being declared a martyr]. But Golnar's family believe that because their daughter was killed, and was innocent, and because she was serving the people in the laboratory and that she was shot when returning from work, she should be declared a martyr and that anyway they consider her as a martyr."
Faezeh adds that nothing was mentioned to the family about blood money – and that the parents would not accept any such payment.
"For the family, nothing can fill her place. You can't fix things with money. Of course, no one said that they will give us blood money; they only said that they are following the case. And that they will find the killer. The family is following the case as well." Faezeh says the police in Shahriar have inspected the scene of the shooting, and investigators have gone to the family’s house to interview Samsami’s mother. But the family declined to speak to the media.
"Our complaint is ongoing. We have a 40th-day gathering [planned[ and the family has asked the prosecutor to process the case faster because the family plans to announe Golnar as a martyr in the notices for the gathering, as well as stamping it on Golnar’s tombstone.”
Faezeh says the Shahriar prosecutor has confirmed that they believe Samsami was innocent of any crimes to do with participation in the protests.
Determining the position of Samsami’s killer will not be difficult for the authorities. But Faezeh says the family does not know who shot Samsami and they doubt the killer will be found.
"We do not think the killer will be identified. There were people in the protests who broke the CCTV cameras so that they are not identified. All the cameras on the other side [of the street] were broken, so the killer can only be identified if he was an agent. Otherwise, how would they find him? But the killer must be found. The family cannot do anything, but they talk as much as they can and keep their hearts as calm as they can, though nothing can fill Golnar's empty place."
“Golnar's mother’s mental state is sad, and the story of what happened to her daughter has hurt her so much that she cannot speak,” Faezeh says.
How has Samsami’s eight-year-old son Roham coped with the loss of his mother?
Faezeh says Roham is a proud child and the family has kept him busy with his friends. ”Roham does not know his mother was shot and killed. The family had agreed to say that she was killed in a car accident. Unfortunately, in recent days, a child showed him the video of his mother being killed, and Roham has been psychologically disturbed by this and is constantly saying, ‘Why was my mother killed?’”
The question is Roham’s first – but it is not his alone. Anyone who has seen the video of Golnar Samsami on the street near her place of work asks: Why was this young woman, minding her own business, deliberately shot and killed? Why is Roham’s mother dead?