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The Sniper Targeted his Neck. He Died a Few Seconds Later

February 18, 2020
Shahed Alavi
7 min read
Mohammad Hashamdar, 33, was the sixth person to be shot dead on November 16, 2019 during protests in Behbahan, Khuzestan
Mohammad Hashamdar, 33, was the sixth person to be shot dead on November 16, 2019 during protests in Behbahan, Khuzestan
Mohammad Hashamdar’s brother Zargham lived with Mohammad and his young wife
Mohammad Hashamdar’s brother Zargham lived with Mohammad and his young wife
Mohammad Hashamdar was shot dead by a government sniper as he was returning home
Mohammad Hashamdar was shot dead by a government sniper as he was returning home

At 2pm on Saturday, November 16, an agent positioned at the top of Bardy Mosque chose to kill a man called Mohammad. He fired. The bullet hit Mohammad’s throat from the front and came out the back of his head. Mohammad immediately fell to the ground and died a few moments later. 

Mohammad Hashamdar was killed by snipers, the same ones who had killed five others on the same day. He was the sixth and the last one killed on that bloody day for the small city of Behbahan in the southwest province of Khuzestan. 

Their last aim was successful. They aimed and shot to kill.

Pouran Hashamdar, Mohammad’s sister, says that her family continues to grieve for him. “On the 16th of every month we mourn him anew,” she says. “We have yet to come to terms with his absence, so much so that it seems we heard the news of his death just today.”

Mohammad Hashamdar, who was 33 years old and married, was the sixth person to be shot dead by government snipers on November 16 during the violent crackdown on popular protests in Behbahan. The snipers appeared to decide on their own who was to live and who was to die.

Pouran Hashamdar says her brother had left home on the morning of November 16 for an appointment to fix a TV stand for one of his clients: “We did not know that the town was in turmoil. My older brother Behnam called and said that we better not leave home. I called Mohammad at 11:53am and told him to come back home because something might happen to him. ‘Shops are mostly closed,’ he said. ‘I wanted to buy equipment but could not. I will return. Don’t you worry.’ This was my last conversation with Mohammad.”

Mohammad was among a crowd of protesters when he was shot in God Chehak Street opposite the Ofogh Kourosh chain store. “Since that day we have been unable to go to that street. Our hearts cannot take going there. People in Behbahan have many videos of that day and of the shooting of Mohammad but we are yet to muster up the courage to watch them.”

Pouran Hashamdar says that Behbahan is a small place and everybody knows each other, so Mohammad might have joined the crowd of protesters when saw his friends among it. “I truly do not know whether Mohammad was among the protesters or he was just there because he had noticed his friends and was standing next to them. Mohammad, his wife, my mother and our 25-year-old brother Zargham, who has Downs syndrome, lived together and Mohammad was so preoccupied with family problems that he had no time for such things. Even the night before, when he called and I told him that a crowd had gathered at Bank Melli, he said he was so busy that he had found no time to go to the bank and knew nothing about the situation.”

When Mohammad was shot, an acquaintance of his who happened to be present put his body on his motorcycle and took him to the hospital. “Everybody at the hospital knew him,” says Pouran. “The same person who had taken Mohammad to the hospital went to my mother’s home with the motorcycle and Mohammad’s bloodied clothes and took her to the hospital. When I got there it was almost 3:30pm and they had taken Mohammad’s body to the morgue.

“They had closed the door to the morgue and did not allow anybody to go in and see the bodies. My elder brother and his friends forced open the door to the morgue and entered. When my brother came out he was crying and screamed that Mohammad’s body was still warm.” Pouran, however, did not have the heart to enter the morgue.

She says that at the time the hospital was very crowded. It felt like every man in Behbahan was there. “No agents were there and nobody bothered the people. They said that they would hand over the bodies after the medical examiner had issued certificates of death and we returned home to mourn.”

But the bodies of those killed in Behbahan were transferred to the provincial capital of Ahvaz on the same night. A police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told IranWire that he and other officers were ordered not to hand over the bodies of the dead to families in case it caused further unrest. He said he had heard from fellow policemen that some of the bodies had been transferred to Ahvaz.


The Task of Burying the Dead 

According to a list compiled by IranWire of those killed in November 2019 protests, five others besides Mohammad Hashamdar were shot dead in Behbahan on November 16: Farzad Ansarifar, Mohammad Hossein Ghanavati, Ehsan Abdollah-Nejad and two brothers, Mehrdad and Mahmoud Dashti.

The efforts of the families to collect the bodies of their loved ones were fruitless on Sunday and Monday. On Monday, November 18, they were told to go to Ahvaz to identify the bodies; on Tuesday the bodies of the six victims, wrapped in burial shrouds, where delivered to the office of the city governor of Behbahan.

Pouran Hashamdar says that the families were notified one by one to go and retrieve the bodies: “They had started delivery of the bodies from early in the morning. At 10:30 in the morning they called us and gave us the body. We took the body for burial and all our friends and acquaintances were there. Of course, we did not bury Mohammad in Behbahan. At my mother’s request, we buried Mohammad in Mansourieh, a town near Behbahan, next to the grave of my sister, who had died when she was 20 years old.”

According to Pouran, the death certificate cited the cause of death as “damage to respiratory and vital arteries due to the impact of a metal object (bullet).” In other words, the medical examiner clearly confirmed that Mohammad had been killed by a bullet.

Government and military officials visited bereaved families in many Iranian cities where protesters were killed in November 2019. In some cases, these officials referred to their loved ones as “martyrs” who had been shot dead by protesters or agitators. “The officials wanted to come to our home and offer their condolences to my mother but my mother did not allow it and nobody came,”  Mohammad’s sister says. “And nobody came to tell my mother that Mohammad was a martyr and they would pay compensation for his death. We say that Mohammad was martyred unjustly, but not the kind of martyrdom that lets us put ‘martyr’ on his gravestone. Mohammad was not armed when he was martyred.”


Looking for Answers

Pouran Hashamdar says that her mother wrote to many authorities to find Mohammad’s murderer, but has yet to receive an answer. She also submitted a complaint to Behbahan’s prosecutor but, again, nothing has been done: “Both my mother and the families of the five other victims have brought complaints and have demanded that the murderers of our loved ones be identified and punished. My mother wants retribution but we have not yet received an answer. We were told that it takes time to act on this complaint and we must wait. Only God knows whether the complaint will get anywhere or not.”

It is still not known exactly how many people lost their lives during the November 2019 protests. Iranian officials have rejected all figures published by human rights organizations, western media and news agencies and Persian-language media outside of Iran but, as of now, they have refused to provide their own figures.

On February 2, 2020, Anooshirvan Mohseni-Bandpey, the governor of Tehran Province, announced that the Supreme National Security Council has ordered the responsible agencies to release the number of the dead [Persian link]. He promised that he himself would announce the figure for Tehran province within a week but, since then, nothing has been heard from him. In an IranWire exclusive, it was reported that in the Khuzestani port of Mahshahr alone at least 148 were killed during five days of protests.

Pouran Hashamdar says that this is the second time her mother has grieved for a lost child; 90 days after the death of Mohammad she has been unable to deal with her grief. “I am with my mother every day. She has a shattered state of mind. The life of Mohammad’s young wife, who married him only five years ago, has been destroyed as well. The situation for my brother Zargham, who suffers from Down Syndrome, is excruciating. Mohammad was his support and his guardian in every respect. Zargham thinks that Mohammad is on a trip to Ahvaz and that he will return. He is waiting for him to open the door and come back.”


Related Coverage:

IranWire’s Reports on November 2019 Protests

After the Protests, an Iranian City is Still in Shock and Mourning, 26 November 2019

Murder and Mass Arrests to Silence Behbahan Protesters, 18 November 2019




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