Kian Pirfalak, a 9-year-old boy from the southwestern Iranian city of Izeh, is among dozens of children killed during the antigovernment protests that has rocked Iran for more than two months.
State media claim Pirfalak died on November 16 in a “terrorist attack” when gunmen on motorbikes shot dead several people, including government security personnel, amid protests in Izeh, in Khuzestan Province.
But Pirfalak’s mother and other members of the family have blamed security forces, who they said shot at the car carrying Kian and his father. The boy died after being hit by four bullets, while his father sustained wounds.
Iran's state TV late on November 18 broadcast an interview of the mother, Zeynab Molaeirad, in which she appeared to retract from her previous comments about his son’s death.
Footage of the woman, dressed in red and sitting in front of a camera, went viral on social media, raising eyebrows in a country where televised forced confessions or testimonies are a common practice.
In the clip, parts of which have been cut off, Molaeirad asked the public not to misuse her words and what she has posted on her Instagram page, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers within a few hours after her son died.
"I am an artist, I may post some artistic things on my page," the mother said.
She said that her son “has become a martyr," without giving details about the circumstances or the cause of his death.
She also appeared to deny she had read a poem criticizing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during Kian's funeral, which took place earlier in the day.
Videos uploaded on social media showed Molaeirad, at the funeral, reading out an adaptation of a famous children's poem to criticize Iran's leadership.
“Hear from me how the shooting happened, so they can’t say it was done by terrorists, because they’re lying,” the mother also told hundreds of mourners, adding: “Plainclothes forces shot my child. That is it.”
In an apparent dysfunction of the Islamic Republic’s propaganda machine, a state TV news program showed a former lawmaker representing Izeh, Hojatullah Darwish, confirming what Molaeirad had said during the funeral.
And Tehran's Etemad newspaper published comments by Kian's uncle, Sajjad Pirfalak, saying that "the correct account of the events and the reality is what Kian's mother had said" at the funeral.
In her interview with state TV, Kian’s mother said that she has not seen her mobile phone since her son died and does not know where it is.
"Everyone comes and says what I put on my [Instagram] page. I swear to God I do not have my phone," Molaeirad said.
Telegram channels close to or affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the semiofficial Fars news agency and other outlets have published a picture of her account and of the people she follows.
They also published a screenshot attributed to her account in which she appeared to express support for the nationwide protests and Ali Karimi, the Iranian football star who has backed the demonstrators.
Because of that support, these news outlets and other supporters of the clerical regime have repugnant comments suggesting that Kian's mother is responsible for the death of her son.
"Kian Pirfalak was vulnerable because, before his assassination, his mother's mind was assassinated," state TV presenter Amirhossein Sabeti tweeted.
Another Twitter user wrote: "Thank God, Kian Pirfalak had a good ending, because, with this mother he has, he definitely wouldn’t have a good ending in the future."
Atieh Shapouri, a nurse who has opposed vaccine imports to Iran, wrote: "This has rarely happened in history. A mother's solidarity with her child's killers."
As the Islamic Republic is now trying to exploit Kian's death, the authorities have hanged placards in the streets of Tehran bearing a portrait of the boy with "My Martyr Mate" written on them.
Meanwhile, the IRGC has asked the public to help identify the “killers of those martyred in the terrorist attack in Izeh."
Mohsen Rezaei, a former IRGC commander and current vice president, already announced that "three terrorists involved in the attack were arrested" while trying to flee the country.