November 2019 Protests

The November 2019 Protester Killed Three Days After His Wedding

November 19, 2021
Parvaneh Masoumi
7 min read
Hossein Afshar Keshavarz and his older brother Ali
Hossein Afshar Keshavarz and his older brother Ali
Ceremony of the second anniversary of the death of Hossein Keshavarz Afshar
Ceremony of the second anniversary of the death of Hossein Keshavarz Afshar
The two brothers together
The two brothers together

Hossein Keshavarz Afshar, aged 27, was one of the victims of the November 2019 protests. He was shot dead by security forces in the city of Quds on November 17, 2019, three days after his wedding. His family searched for him for a month, and on December 20, they received his remains and buried him.

His brother, Ali, who was two years older than him, could not stand his brother's death and hanged himself a year later.

On the second anniversary of the death of Hossein, one of his relatives, who did not want to be named, recounted for IranWire what happened to the family.

On the morning of November 14, 2019, exactly three days before he was killed, Hossein got married. Friends and family came from far and wide, and Ali, Hossein's brother, was eager to prepare for the ceremony. It seemed that joy and dancing had returned to the family, after a long time, but no one could have predicted what would follow.

On the evening of November 17, Hossein called his wife and said he had finished work and was going to his parents' house for dinner. Hossein asked her to get ready to join him.

Hossein's workplace was a private company owned by his cousin on Chaman Street. It was not far from their house and Hossein and his friends started going home. Near Quds Square, at the end of Emarat Street, they reached a huge crowd of people and Hossein lost his companions.

Little other information is available about Hossein Keshavarz Afshar. His family have remained silent over the past two years for fear of what might happen to their other children – perhaps this is why.

On the second anniversary of his death, a close relative told IranWire: "After Hossein lost his friends in the middle of the crowd, and did not follow them because he had an appointment with his wife, his family began to search. Their initial impression was that he must have been arrested. I was with them too. From seven that night until late, we checked all the alleys. Electricity was cut off, and in the dark, the streets and alleys were covered in blood, with trash cans, shawls and scarves, and torn papers. It was like a war zone. We went to the police-11 investigation station near the Qazvin railway and searched for Hossein. But the officer there told Hossein's sister that it would be better for her to return home because he would not be responsible if she was shot."

The next day, all Hossein’s relatives were mobilized to try to find him at official offices, hospitals, and so on.

Neighbors said there were black vans with tinted windows parked on the outskirts of Quds Square, gathering protesting youths from all over Quds Street and taking them away.

Since the initial impression was that Hossein might have been arrested, after that night, the family of Keshavarz Afshar could not sleep properly and searched for his whereabouts. They thought he had been arrested and was probably in the corner of a detention center and would be released soon.

That night, several ambulances were standing near Emarat Street. Hossein's sisters showed his photo to the ambulance drivers and begged them to tell her if they had any news. But no one gave any information: "They said go home. The driver said don't ask us, ma'am, we are not allowed to say anything."

A person close to Afshar's family says that he himself was involved with Hossein's family in these efforts: "I saw them go to checkpoints, formal and informal detention centers, Rajai Shahr Prison, Fashafouyeh Prison, the emergency services of Greater Tehran and any other place recommended by others. Once they were shown an unidentified body on a Kahrizak morgue monitor, but unfortunately they did not recognize Hossein's body. His face had turned white like plaster and he had been in the morgue for a long time. In Kahrizak morgue, corpses were shown to them; people who were bruised, hit, their bodies were crushed..."

The Keshavarz family was at one point given a local address that appeared to be an informal detention center and a safe house: "There was no sign there, no official name. But they did not have Hossein on their list. Hossein's brothers and sisters were constantly advised not to search for him. Every day the mother and her father-in-law went to court, trying to find a way to contact an influential official, so that there might be news of Hossein’s disappearance."

Hossein's family eventually filed a complaint about their missing son: "The same day the complaint was filed, they were told that someone was using Hossein's bank card. They were told Hossein was in love with another woman and had run away with her. It was very difficult for a newly wedded young woman who lost her husband three days after their marriage to hear these allegations. We all knew Hossein was not like that."

Hossein's family tried to convince the missing persons department that Hossein loved his wife and that they had been married for just two days before his disappearance. "But the intelligence officer kept repeating that your child has run away with another woman. Hossein had lost his bank card and had gone to the bank on the morning of November 17 to collect a new one. The password of the card was pasted on a piece of paper so that he would not forget it. It seems that when he was shot and his lifeless body fell to the ground, someone stole his wallet and belongings and was emptying his account."

Hossein Afshar had a small tattoo on his chest. After a second visit by the family to Kahrizak morgue, and seeing the body of an unknown person, he was finally identified because of this tattoo.

One month after his disappearance, his family underwent a DNA test, and it was determined that it was Hossein's body that had been shot. They do not know exactly where he was shot, why he was shot or how his last moments of life played out.

On December 20, his body was handed over to his family and he was buried in the village of Ghaleh Hosseinieh in Zanjan.

Hossein was the youngest child in his family, helped his siblings, and had a close relationship with Ali, his other brother.

IranWire’s source added that Hossein’s families complaints never went anywhere: "They cannot identify his killer. ... However, during his funeral, security forces were present in the crowd, but did not react. After 40 days [the traditional mourning period], a series of high-ranking Revolutionary Guards and Basij officials went to the family’s house and said it was a mistake and was just a coincidence. Most of the family members were also there. Hossein's father said the family had been told that security cameras had been cut off due to a power outage, and that nothing had been recorded, so they could not identify his killer. It was unknown when and how he was killed, as he lost his companions in Emarat Street. ... Hossein’s father added, 'Why do these things always happen to the poorer classes of the society Why it does not happen once for your own children and for yourself? Why was everyone you killed a worker, a salesman, and a student?' The officials did not visit again or send any further views. But if someone posts a photo or writes anything on social media, they will immediately call and ask you to stop. The family want to know why, for example, a brother does not have the right to publish a photo of his dead young brother on social media."

Hossein’s brother Ali took his life a year after the family lost his brother. "I do not know much about how Ali died,” IranWire’s source said, "but we knew they had been close since childhood. After Hossein's death, he had taken refuge in a secluded village. He stayed there for a few months. He was on the phone day and night watching videos of Hossein dancing and laughing. One day he called his family, asking everyone about latest news in their situation, and at night he quietly ended his life."

Ali said he no longer had the motivation to live: "He came and went for a long time, but then he realized that his family could not pursue justice for his brother's death, and even their insistence could be troublesome for other family members. He decided to join his brother, and now his heartbroken mother is left with a picture frame of two young brothers in her arms."

Related coverage:

Hundreds Testify in "People's Tribunal" on November 2019 Atrocities

Father of two young children was shot dead in Shiraz protests

Security Forces Abandoned his Body Outside the Morgue — After 5 Days

Security Forces Kill a 13-Year-Old Bystander

An Annual Review of Lies: “Most of those Killed were Government Agents”

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