Iranian Arab civil rights activist Atefeh Nea’ami was found lifeless under a blanket on the balcony of her apartment in the city of Karaj last week. Close to her mouth, there was a pipe connected to a gas valve.
The official medical report has not been published yet, but Atefeh’s Austria-based brother says she was most probably arrested and then lost her life due to torture inflicted by her captors. The security forces then put in place a scenario to make everybody believe the cause of death was suicide.
The brother, Mohammad Amin Nea’ami, is convinced Atefeh could not have committed suicide at a time when women are taking to the streets for their rights.
"She wanted people to be together and she was very persistent in his social relationship with others. Whenever people had problems, she would help them. We lost our parents at a young age, so my sister really liked helping the elderly", he told IranWire.
Government forces are routinely making up stories to try to cover up the killing of protesters who have taken to the streets across Iran over more than two months. The authorities are also trying to force the victims’ families to say their loved ones died in an accident or committed suicide.
According to Atefeh’s family, they hadn’t heard from her since November 20. The brothers and sisters initially thought the Internet shutdown or the disruption of mobile phone networks were responsible for Atefeh’s silence.
Finally, late on November 26, Atefeh's older sister, who lives in Tehran, asked her daughter and one of their relatives to go to her apartment. When they arrived, they noticed a note warning that there was a risk of gas leakage
After breaking the apartment door, they entered the apartment and discovered Atefeh's dead body, according to Mohammad Amin. A very bad smell was coming from the body.
"They called the police right away and they arrived. Contrary to the usual procedures, some items were destroyed on the pretext that they had an unpleasant smell, but this should not have happened," he told IranWire.
"An officer who worked in the criminal department and came to the scene said that, according his clinical observations, this was not a suicide," the brother said, adding: "We believe our sister was killed by security agents because she was distributing pamphlets about women’s freedom during this uprising."
"I guess she was probably abducted by the Ministry of Intelligence in one of the alleys overlooking the road to the apartment building. And after being tortured and harassed…she was killed," he continued.
Footage of young women distributing pamphlets calling on people to join the ongoing protests demanding more freedoms and women's rights have been published on social media over the past week.
Media close to the government reported the arrest of some of these women, saying they were accused of "breaking the norms".
Atefeh's body was buried by security agents in Karaj at 10 a.m. on November 28 with only a few female family members attending. The family had been told that the funeral would be held at 1 p.m.
"My family is in the spotlight of the Intelligence Ministry. The same night when they found my sister's body and informed me, I told my niece over a video call to quickly turn the phone around so I could see who was there. But she didn’t do that, which shows there are people around them and that they are under pressure,” Mohammad Amin said.