Following the unexplained death of Farinaz Khosravani on May 4, clashes continued between security police and protesters in the Kurdish town of Mahabad.
But Alireza Radfar, the security deputy for the governor of Western Azarbaijan province, denied police had used excessive force to control the crowds.
Khosravani, a 26-year-old computer science graduate, fell from a window at the Hotel Tara in Mahabad, where she had worked as an employee. There were reports that an Intelligence Ministry agent had tried to rape her in the hotel room prior to the incident.
People took to the streets in protest, calling for the agent who attacked Khosravani to face a public trial, and setting the hotel on fire, according to Kordpa news agency. Police responded with tear gas, and there were rumors that some officers had used gunshots to disperse the crowds. Several protesters and officers sustained injuries. One eyewitness said that the demonsration "began peacefully" and only turned violent after the security forces arrived in large numbers."
Confirming the injuries, Deputy Radfar defended local officials’ account of the event, lashing out at protesters who, he said, had acted irresponsibly and had jeopardized the future economic health of the city.
“Police forces tried to control and disperse the young protesters using non-violent methods, and showed a tremendous amount of patience,” he said. “When the hotel was set on fire, and the fire brigade hurried to the site, people did not let fire engines pass. They threw objects at the police, and as a result, several people were injured on both sides. They were immediately taken to Mahabad Hospital. Most of them were treated as outpatients. Two had to undergo surgery. One suffered from a serious eye injury.”
Radfar insisted the police would take a heavier approach if demonstrations continued. “The patience of police forces and judicial authorities toward such emotional behaviour cannot continue forever. If we suspect that there are intentions to take advantage of public emotions and excitement toward wrong illegal purposes, we will not hesitate to act resolutely.”
The security deputy also defended the alleged perpetrator. “The suspect, who had recently lost his wife, merely intended to woo the young girl,” Borna News reported him saying. “But she fell out of the window while leaving the room.”
Objecting to calls for transparency in the case, Radfar responded, “Since certain issues are private, we do not see that it is appropriate to make them public. The only thing that I can say is that there was a quarrel between the girl and the suspect, but based on legal medical reports, there had been no assault. The girl fell out of the window while rushing to leave the room and died as a result. I openly announce and repeat that according to the legal medical reports no physical or moral offence was committed.”
Protests: A Danger to the City’s Future?
Radfar also appealed to the public to take pride in their city and not destroy the hard work that had gone toward making it a tourist destination. He lamented the fact that “enraged civilians had gathered in front of the hotel and behaved in a very inappropriate way,” and said that “such emotional conduct can only thwart financial investments in the city. There were 100,000 tourists visiting Mahabad during Nowruz, thanks to efforts from the tourist industry and local authorities.”
Radfar also expressed concern about a forthcoming investment conference in the city — Hotel Tara was to have served as one of the event’s venues. “Will the current situation, including the damage to the hotel and violent attacks on police, cause investors to turn away from the city?” he asked.
He also took the opportunity to remind the public of their moral responsibilities — particularly parents — and issue further warnings to the city’s youth. “Wise civilians must protect their children, and must not deviate toward the path of the enemies of the regime. The young people who gathered in front of Tara Hotel, lighting fires and behaving violently, were aged 15 to 22. They were inexperienced people who were emotionally provoked. Parents should guide them so that Mahabad’s chances for investment and development will not be ruined.”